Tag Archives: Rabbi Nardus Groen

Remembering my Father

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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.

 

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Holiday Gift Idea

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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.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!

 

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My Plea for Unity

Jewish-unityWhen I got into this activism mode a few months back, I did so to fight the enemies of the Jewish people. As I feel more and more like the debate is turning into Jew against Jew it becomes increasingly exhausting for me.  I am by no means afraid to confront ANYONE, but I reserve the right to show more tolerance for Jews than I do for others sharing opinions I feel incorrect or even damaging to the Jewish people. We speak of 6 million dying at the hands of the Nazis. What would happen if we found out that 1.5 millions were so liberal and overly tolerant that they wanted to try to negotiate with Hitler. We know they’re wrong, but do we alter our discussion? Do we only truly mourn 4.5 million slaughtered Jews once we know this? As I love to do I quote these wonderful words by my father Rabbi Nardus Groen of Blessed Memory:

“We may in the course of it meet people who, for whatever it’s worth, may be portrayed as heroes, while others are cowards, pacifists, or activists.They are all the products of mankind. For them, there will always be a place under the sun (with the exception of the traitor). But being as we are a homogenous society, no one can ever be left out. And as it is by the very
inclination of the human race, the dark shadow of the wicked will play an overpowering role in leaving behind the marks in the way of scars brought upon them by society.

If the worst could ever be turned into good, the only lesson to be learned of that is, never ever forget. For in the past lay the present, and in the present the future. Without that, we will be repeating our mistakes and shortcomings, and as a result the world will not be the place it was created to be.

In order to live, you still have to be able to somehow believe in the goodness of mankind.”

 

Whenever we pray to God for forgiveness we hope our worst actions will be understood as being a result of weakness or stupidity.  We turn to God and hope he will accept the failings that coincide with our humanity.  I am not saying we tolerate someone who puts us in clear and present danger, I am merely saying we allow the same courtesy to decent albeit misguided or weak people that we ourselves beg from God.

And as my father, a man who lived a good life till the age of 87, a man who worked against the Nazis in the Dutch resistance, saved the lives of innocent people, fought in the Dutch Marines and then served the Jewish community as a Rabbi for decades and was anything but naive once said, “In order to live, you still have to be able to somehow believe in the goodness of mankind.”

I’m all for standing up for one’s principles, but my first priority is to fight against those that want to do harm to the innocent and harm my people.  I am not here to fight Jews.  There are enough people who want to do that.  I refuse to be one of them.

 

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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.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BOOK.

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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Back when I was a Moderate…2 weeks ago

111Two weeks ago I would have been considered a moderate regarding the situation with Israel and the Palestinians.   I even held hope that the Palestinian Authority would do the right thing in response to what then was the kidnapping of the 3 Israeli teens.  However, like anyone else in life I have a breaking point. Mine was the moment it was clear that these 3 boys had not only been kidnapped, but murdered as well.  Having reached that breaking point I have come to following conclusions. Any person who does not believe Israel is in its rights to use any manner of force necessary, be it in Gaza, Judea or Samaria (aka ‘The West Bank’) falls into one of the following categories:

Non Jew: Ignorant; Gullible; Anti-Semitic

Jew: Ignorant; Naïve; Flat-out stupid; Self-hating

As a Jew, two weeks ago I fell into the naïve category.  That is a category with many different levels.  My naiveté was rooted in the belief and hope that a peaceful solution was possible.  I was a moderate.  The 3 murdered Israeli teens are 3 among thousands killed by terrorists, but somehow it was their murder that destroyed my moderate status as well.  Yes I questioned my moderation even then, but I was always open to the idea that there were enough people in power on their side who wanted peace more than they wanted the destruction of Israel to create an atmosphere of coexistence.   Sadly that is not the case.  As Golda Meir once said so eloquently, “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”  It is with genuine pain that I say that day is further away from us than ever before.

First to the Non-Jewish people I make mention of, I say this.  I respect anyone whose genuine desire is a world of peace.  Even if you are ignorant to the truth or gullible as to the intentions of Israel’s Arab enemies, you may desperately cling to the hope that peace can break out.  I admire your motivation and appreciate your decency.  However, if you really take time to look at the situation you will come to the same tragic conclusion.  They do not want peace.  They want dead Jews.  If you can show me any concrete evidence to prove otherwise I would be happy to see it, but I truly do not believe that evidence exists.

If you are anti-Semitic I have nothing to say to you.  You live with hate in your heart and to make matters even worse, that hate is directed towards me and my family.  You therefore are nothing to me other than disgusting and potentially dangerous.

To the Jews in these categories I say this.  Please learn from the past.  The Nazis set out to kill every last Jew.  Not merely the Jew who opposed them, but even the Jew whose fear motivated them to work for them in concert in the hope that they would be spared.  They were all targets.  As we all are today.  The naïve amongst you who believe in a peaceful solution, are making the mistake I so genuinely understand.  You are applying rational thinking to irrational minds.  These are people who are taught that the greatest honor they can achieve in life is through death.  Not merely death, but death through murder and destruction.  I am sure those of you who are applying your rational standards do not for one second relate to that way of thinking, but if you analyze it honestly and without personal prejudice you may see the sad truth.

To the self-hating Jew, the one who chooses to be extra vocal about criticism of Jews when they do things wrong but are only half as vocal, at best, when Jews are attacked and murdered, I say this.  It is not just your fellow Jew you will bring suffering to, but to yourself as well.  You are a pawn on a chessboard of evil, and those who play chess know that the pawns are the most expendable.  My father, Rabbi Nardus Groen of Blessed Memory once wrote when referring back to his account of the Holocaust,  “We may in the course of it meet people who, for whatever it’s worth,may be portrayed as heroes, while others are cowards, pacifists, or activists.They are all the products of mankind. For them, there will always be a place under the sun (with the exception of the traitor).”   It is not my place to determine who are the cowards and pacifists and who are the traitors.  God will know what is in your heart and I trust will judge you accordingly.

One may make the argument that every day a moderate turns radical Hamas has gained another victory.  That may be true.  But it is safer to be a realistic radical than a delusional moderate.  Unfortunately I now believe those are the only two choices.


Cliches and the Damage they do to Israel

NewAntisemitismBlogHeaderWelcome to the world of the cliché.  For starters, let me admit that I am on occasion as guilty as anyone else of using clichés, but when serious events take place such as has been the case recently in Israel, social media goes crazy recycling the same sentiments over and over again. To be fair, some of these sentiments are obvious ones that any normal human being would have.  Case in point, the devastation everyone felt over the murder of  Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and  Eyal Yifrach, and the subsequent comments that followed based in sadness and mourning.  Those commonly felt sentiments are not the ones I speak of.  The ones I am addressing are the different statements regarding the world’s reaction and what is oft referred to as “the way Jews act”.

I am in no position to criticize anyone, especially those who care enough to give their opinion in this difficult time.  I realize that whether you make the statement that you do not care about the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir or you are as outraged by it as you are about the murder of the 3 Israeli teens, your heart is still probably in the right place.  Your against murder, which makes you at least in basic terms, a good person.  Here’s where I personally run into a problem.  In attacking a Jew who is rightfully fed up with the treatment of our people for thousands of years, you may become part of the problem.  Yes, you are entitled to an opinion, but those who have come to their own unbiased and logical conclusion, are pretty much clear on the double standard that exists when judging Jewish behavior and reaction.

“Jews don’t do that”.  Don’t do what?  Get angry, fight for survival, strike back?  I sit here writing this today because before the Nazis ever entered Holland, my father Rabbi Nardus Groen of Blessed Memory did something Jews “didn’t do” in 1930’s Holland.  He joined what was then the equivalent of the National Guard and learned how to use a gun.  I go back to the phrase “Never Again” often because it is not so much a cliché as it is an approach the Jewish people need to have if they are to survive.  Do we feel that mass murder of Jews can never happen again?  I would like nothing more than to say there are no indications of that, but sadly we live in a world where genocidal maniacs still live and even gain popularity, putting not only Jews but other people in similar danger.

I agree that murder for the sake of murder is not the Jewish way, but I also feel passionately that is not what has taken place in Israel. Assuming the culprits of Khdeir’s murder were Jews, they are a group of people who were brought down to a tragic and horrible level by the enemies who have done everything in their power till now to get them there.  Do those of you speaking of how Jews act really think that any clearheaded citizen of Israel or any Jew in the world for that matter wants to spend their time hunting down and murdering Palestinians?  They do not.  Unlike the enemy, we are not taught that murder is an act of holiness and honor.  But these same Jewish people we speak of do have feelings and fears.  Jews don’t do what? Act human?  Seek justice, even if through the wrong avenues? Working on the assumption of their guilt, the behavior of some, albeit wrong and even deplorable, and of course requiring punishment, is still based in an understandably sad but human reaction.  This is not an attempt to justify it, merely to address the most popular cliché of the day, “Jews don’t do that.”

The other issue has to do with how the world feels and how the world reacts.  Let’s drop all the clichés and just tell it like it is.  As a unit, the world does not stand behind Israel and the Jewish people.  Please harbor no illusions.  Yes there are many good and some great people who put themselves out there and defend us, but they are individuals who ultimately may be at risk just as we are.   And when looking at how the world body really see the situation let’s just take a look at the United Nations reaction over the past few weeks.  When 3 Jewish boys get kidnapped and murdered the United Nations makes a statement declaring there is no evidence it was done by Hamas.  When 1 Palestinian boy gets murdered, allegedly by Jewish settlers, there is talk of a special investigation of the behavior of the settlers.  And we are back to where we started.  How Jews act.  The world has never shown signs of favoring the Jewish position so I can’t say  I am surprised by the overall reaction.  But if you are Jewish, and one who supports the State of Israel and its inhabitants, I urge you to try a different cliché, like “Never Again”.  It might just end of saving your life one day.

The reality is that Israel needs to do what is right for Israel and the Jewish people without concerning itself with what the world thinks.  It’s hardly ever good anyway.

 

 


When A Decision Shows Greatness

dadc1It was in the late 1970’s when we were living in the city of Arnhem, capital of the Dutch province of Gelderland, that my father was thrust into a situation no one would ever envy.  As the Rabbi of Gelderland and 5 other provinces, his duties included visiting and counseling the sick, visiting Jewish inmates in prison, and probably the most common occurrence, the performance of funeral services.  One day he received an urgent call saying that a well-known member of the community had taken a gun to his head and had killed himself.  The man, someone we all knew well, was a good man, but a mentally tortured man.  Whatever suffering he had endured at the hands of his Nazis was unknown to me, but we all knew that whether it was the suffering caused by the murder of his family or personal torture, this man was a victim of the Holocaust and sadly suffered mentally in a way the majority of people, myself included, could never understand.  Under strict Jewish law, someone who commits suicide is not entitled to a proper Jewish burial and is not supposed to be mourned as others would be.  My father, someone who had experienced the Nazi-occupation of Holland first hand, and a man of compassion and wisdom, would have no part of this.  Understanding that this man was not a weak man taking the cowardly way out, but rather a victim of the horrors, my father ruled his death as a death by illness, regardless of whether or not the final action was self-inflicted or not.  By my father making this decree, the man was able to receive the proper burial he deserved, and was mourned and remembered in the days, weeks and months that followed.

I was no older than 17 when this happened.  It would be something I would never forget because this action was a testament to what was great about my father, Rabbi Nardus Groen who passed away 7 years ago today on June 13, 2007.  As a son I always loved him.  As a young man, this decision by my father made me admire him, and stayed we me my entire life.