Bibi forced to announce Israel welcomes all shades of Jewishness

Netanyahu

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments on three different occasions over the last week that Israel is home to all Jews are intended to send a reassuring message to segments of Diaspora Jewry infuriated by Religious Services Minister David Azoulay’s deprecating remarks about Reform Jewry last week, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office acknowledged on Tuesday. Click here to read the story.

Assimilation: Greatest threat to Jews of the Diaspora

By RONN TOROSSIAN

Previously in America, educated, passionate American Jews may have said that their biggest problems were external – antisemites, the survival of Israel or other pressing issues. Today, undoubtedly the biggest Jewish problem in America is an internal issue – Jewish assimilation.

The great Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote over 100 years ago that “spiritual rootlessness is no less horrendous than physical insecurity.” He added “The dangers of spiritual impoverishment were greatest exactly where external pressures were weakest or non-existent.”

Today, in 2012 this quote speaks to American Jewry – while there are isolated cases of antisemitism there aren’t real physical problems on a regular basis or external pressures facing American Jewry.  Yes, the current American president is no friend of Israel and Iran is a vast danger to Israel but there is a Jewish state with a Jewish army – and as my mother said “This too shall pass.”

The larger problem is one of Jewish continuity.

There are very few programs succeeding in educating or exciting the next generation of American Jews. With rampant assimilation, there is precious little leadership in American Jewry. While Newsweek makes a big deal about their Top 50 Rabbis list, how many non-Orthodox do they truly reach, and even amongst those they do reach how many of their children will be Jewish in America one or two generations from today ? How many American Jews have any clue who Abe Foxman or any of the other so-called Jewish “leaders” are?

Those of us involved in the American Jewish community who follow the issues and read Jewish media hear plenty of noise about “Jewish problems” – whether its ultra-Orthodox pressure, BDS, Jonathan Pollard or those who say American Jews are alienated because Israel “occupies” the Palestinians.  The vast majority of American Jews simply don’t care about these or any other Jewish issues – they don’t care about being Jewish.

Other than Chabad and perhaps Birthright, what American Jewish organizations or movement in the last 15 years can claim to have an impact on this generation of American Jewry? Which one of them will claim to impact the next generation (or two)? Precious few and it’s simply terrifying. There are so many real problematic issue. Tuition at American Jewish schools averages $14,000 a year – tremendously expensive, and without education one wonders how American Jewry can survive.

Rabbi Avi Weiss tells a story about a holy wise rabbi who knew the answer to every question, to any question anyone could ask him.

He traveled from town to town teaching and answering questions. One day he arrived in a town and a young girl cried out: ‘’I have a question for you, Rabbi, and I’m sure you can’t answer it.’’ The rabbi smiled and said ‘’Ask.’’ She spoke: ‘’I have a bird hidden behind my back, held carefully in my hands. Is the bird dead or alive?’ She had already come up with two answers that would be the opposite of what the rabbi would say: If he answers ‘‘It is dead,’’ then I will let it go free and if he answers ‘’It is alive,’’then I will crush it in my hands and kill it”.

The rabbi knew that the young girl was intent on tricking him. He answered her: “My dear child, you hold the bird in your hands. The answer all depends on you. You can let it live, or you can take its life. The answer is in your hands.”

That bird symbolizes the Jewish people and our ability to shape the future of the American Jewish community.

During the previous American presidential election cycle there was discussion about both major political parties briefly suspending partisan efforts to address the huge economic issues “in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people.” The time is long overdue for this effort to take place – a moratorium of some set period of time on monies spent on partisan, divisive issues – and for a universal American Jewish focus on defeating assimilation. Week after week we see ads in major media, and tons of money being spent on divisive Jewish issues. But who will be the first to unite and take a call to action to benefit not just this generation but the next generation of American Jewry? Who amongst the Orthodox and Reform, right and left will be the first to actually lead on universal issues of education? Which brave leader will say enough is enough lets all focus on assimiliation?

On a recent Friday night during services in the Carlebach shul in Manhattan  a young 3 or 4-year-old-boy climbed up to the pulpit and making a lot of noise as toddlers are apt to do distracted many of us during services. His father sheepishly went to remove him, but the synagogue insisted the boy stay exactly where he was and keep going as he was.

In a moment I won’t forget, the rabbi insisted in any prayer session those of the children are the purest and most holy and in whatever form they are the prayers are heard by the heavens and elevate all of the Jewish peoples’ prayers. The congregation explained the child needs to stay on the pulpit as that’s the place for Jewish kids. It was a beautiful scene and one the whole Jewish community, of all religious and political beliefs should seek to emulate, in all forms of their prayer or beliefs.

Mark Twain in 1899 wrote: “All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” Answering this question and ensuring the people of Israel remain immortal remains the foremost Jewish problem in America.


 

Make way for the young

By RONN TOROSSIAN

One of the biggest problems facing American Jewry is a simple one – our old age. Young American Jews simply don’t care about authentic Judaism. Lets put aside the Orthodox and even traditional minded “Conservadox” types. Aside from those communities, how many American Jews under the age of 35 give a damn about anything Jewish? Whether its Israel, Kabbalah or Jewish ethics.  It simply doesn’t exist – and its terrifying.

Legendary criminal defense attorney Ben Brafman recently said “Stop worrying about planting trees  – start planting Jewish students who know about Israel.” Its an interesting commentary to talk about how important education is.  If one looks around a synagogue, or Jewish communal event, how rare is it to see anyone under the age of 30? How many people leave synagogue after their bar mitzvahs and never come back? How many organizations focus on education on Israel or Judaism to the young ? While Birthright has been a game changer, what happens afterwards, and whats with all the lost young Jews ? It’s a major problem not being addressed.

The great New York activist Rabbi Avi Weiss speaks of those who spend funds “counting swastikas on the side of barns” – and questions if that’s the best use today of American Jewish funds. Rabbi Weiss is right when he says: “Antisemitism isn’t our greatest challenge. When there is antisemitism, there is no intermarriage. In America, we are so loved, we’re being married in droves. We’re so free, we’re assimilating. The bodies of Jews are OK; the souls aren’t.”

One of the issues which is just not addressed in the American Jewish community is the education and demographic one. I speak a lot to American Jewish groups – and its very rare to see non-Orthodox Jewish young people involved in Judaism. And after separating Sephardim, the children of immigrants and the children of Orthodox parents, it’s even less.  What does that mean for the future ?

Owning one of the 25 largest U.S. PR firms5WPR, I am proud to speak often, and write often on these key topics – and at the age of 37 I hope I am still “young” enough to hook more young American Jews on the beauty of Judaism – wherever they stand on the religious spectrum. American Jewish leadership needs to start addressing this in a real way – it’s a problem which wont go away.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5W Public Relations, and author of the just released PR book, For Immediate Release.

 

 

 

What comes to mind need not come to mouth

The Yorck Project photo

By RABBI YISRAEL HANIEL
Associate Director for Religious Affairs
B’Ahavat Yisrael

In the Torah section of Korach, we learn of a fierce attack that erupts. The attack is against none other than Moses, the selfless leader of the people of Israel who led them out of Egypt and intervened on their behalf with G-d. The attacker is Moses’ own cousin Korach – jealous of Moses’ leadership position. Korach, with the aid of 250 other men of stature, launches an insulting diatribe against the greatest leader in our history.

Despite the insulting nature of it all, Moses does not lash back against his attackers. He tries to calm the waters, attempting several times to reason with Korach and his henchmen – to no avail. Moses finds that there is no reasoning with them and, in the end, appeals to G-d to settle the issue, which He does definitively, huddling them together and then miraculously having the earth cave in underneath them, swallowing up every single of this group of rabble rousers.

During this whole ugly affair spearheaded by Korach, Moses exhibits tremendous self-restraint. Although attacked totally unjustly, with not a modicum of consideration and respect for his supreme stature, Moses chooses to reason with his attackers. His intention is only to correct their misconception and, thereby, bring things to a peaceful conclusion. He knows that yelling at this group for their audacity will not rectify the situation – the only thing that concerns our selfless leader. He provides a stellar example of self-restraint for the greater good.

Moses’ behavior serves as an example to all, and, indeed, later leaders of our people have followed in his footsteps when addressing those who approach them even when it was not so easy. One example comes to mind in the life of R. Shmuel Salant (1816 – 1909) as individuals of all walks of life addressed him with questions of all sorts while he served as spiritual leader of Jerusalem (Paysach Krohn, In the Footsteps of the Maggid, pp. 244-245).

One day a simple woman, disturbed by her careless act, approached R. Salant with a question: “I had some meat that was not yet ritually salted [and therefore not yet kosher] out on my counter, and, before I could remove it, my cat came and ate the non-koshered meat…what is the status of my cat?”

R. Salant’s students, who were present at the time, could barely control themselves from laughing at the ludicrous question. After all, a cat is non-kosher regardless of what it eats as a cow is kosher no matter what it eats! However, in respect for their teacher, they controlled themselves and waited to see what R. Salant would answer.

As the woman waited anxiously, R. Salant began to leaf through one of the books on his desk and then said to the woman: “You must remember never to do this again. What you did could at some time in the future lead to a serious problem. If you leave meat like that on the counter, a Jew could eat that meat in error! But for now, you can keep your cat. Its status remains as it was before. You are free from and worry and concern.”

After the woman thanked him profusely and left, R. Salant turned to his students who were now giggling. He explained that one day one of them may be in the position to answer religious questions and, therefore, “It is imperative for you to remember that, whenever a person comes to ask a question, you must always treat the question and the questioner with dignity and respect. For if you laugh at or scorn the question, even though such a reaction may be well deserved, the person will refrain from coming back in the future, when the question may really be a serious one. Your answer today will affect the bringing of questions tomorrow.”

R. Salant like Moses before him was teaching others that what comes to mind need not come to mouth. One may be addressed in a ludicrous manner or even in an insulting manner, and what comes to mind is scorn, but, before exercising one’s mouth, one should decide whether saying what is on one’s mind will achieve the proper goal. May we all exercise the proper restraint in our dealings with others for the sake of the greater good, the good of all our people and the world at large.

You can’t judge a parent by the child

Products of upbringing? UK in Israel photo

By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM

Judging the parenting of others is a dangerous business. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has had the experience of observing a child in the neighborhood whose behavior did not find favor in my eyes, and jumping to some unfavorable conclusion about the parenting in the home.

Even if that criticism never escaped my lips and remained nothing more than a fleeting thought, it always came back to haunt me – sometimes within a few days and sometimes not for years – when I discovered that my own children were not necessarily immune to the same behavior. And that I knew could not be the result of any deficiency in my parenting.

Judgments of others based on the behavior of their children are not only risky, but almost always wrong. Let’s take two hypothetical fathers.

One, a baalebos, has sons who have all followed in their father’s footsteps and are considered top bochurim in their respective yeshivos. The other father has not been so fortunate. None of his boys seem destined for the top ranks of learning. At first glance, most of us would conclude that the baalebos has been successful with this children and the rav not.

But one who knows nothing more than the outcomes with the children cannot possibly make that judgment. The first father has every right to be feel blessed. And he must have demonstrated in word and deed the importance he attaches to Torah learning. But it is far from clear how much beyond that he contributed to his son’s successes. Maybe all the boys were very gifted. From the moment they started learning Elu Metzios, they heard nothing but positive feedback from their rebbeim. Not surprisingly, they enjoyed learning and continued to receive positive reinforcement, which in turn fueled their desire to learn more.

That’s one possibility. But only one. Natural abilities, as we have written many times, are a very imperfect predictor of success.

The great Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, once remarked of a certain gifted bochur in surprise, “We always thought that kishronos (natural gifts) are meaning. Now, we see sometimeskishronos can help in learning.” Gifted children have their own challenges. One of which is that they often rely too much on their native abilities at an early age, and never develop the hasmoda that will inevitably be required at some point to reach the higher levels of learning. In short, we have no way of knowing whether the first father was the greatest parent in the world, or he simply did not make any big mistakes and ruin the gift he had been given.

And the same is even more true of the second father. Maybe his sons were not nearly as bright as he. Or perhaps they all suffered from some learning disability, and as a consequence got off to a difficult start in school. And perhaps those difficulties were compounded by constantly hearing how shocking it was for sons of a distinguished talmid chacham to be mediocre.

Now, most fathers want their sons to follow in their footsteps. At the brissos of his sons, the second father no doubt imagined them growing to be distinguished talmidei chachamim, like him. It would have been quiet natural for his sons to grow up feeling that they had disappointed their father, even if he was careful not to convey his disappointment. Had they sensed any disappointment on his part, one or more of them might have become bitter against a world in which they were denied success and against their father for making them feel bad about themselves. And that could have led them away from the Torah world.

Rather than view the second father as a failure because his sons are not waxing talmidei chachamim, then, perhaps we should view him as the greatest success in the world because they are well-adjusted frum Jews at all. One of the most common parenting mistakes is living vicariously through our children. How many fathers have done their sons grave harm by pushing them into the prestigious yeshiva that they attended, even if it was totally unsuited to their son. Seeking vicarious glory through our children is the very opposite of the Shlomo Hamelech’s advice “hanoch l’naar al pi darko,” which means educate the child according to his needs and not according to yours. Who better fulfills that injunction than the father who refuses to view his sons as means for the fulfillment of his own ambitions?

Bottom line: the only one who can possibly judge the quality of anyone’s parenting is the Ribbono shel Olam, for only He knows the potential with which any child is born, and the strengths and challenges he or she will face. And only in relation to that potential can our success or failure be assessed.

Jonathan Rosenblum blogs at http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/.

 

Project Amanda links American Jewish kids with Israelis

Project Amanda, whose objective is to link thousands of Jewish children in the U.S. with children in Israel is launching this week from temples in the Northeast United States.

Project Amanda is a fun, exciting and educational program which uses the Internet in real time to have children talk see and share their lives.

Using Skype, the children in Israel and in the U.S. discuss a variety of values and topics including what a typical day is like in school, family, friends, shopping, playing, food, clothes, money, Judaism, politics, vacations, weather, toys, computer games and pets.

A Jewish perspective on the dangerous charisma of power

Stalin. Russian government photo

By RABBI DAVID WOLPE

In the ancient world, what was the traditional attitude towards power?

When the son of Persian King Cyrus, Cambyses, himself became King, he wanted to marry his sister. He called in the royal judges to inquire whether there was a law permitting this practice. They came back and said they could find no such law, but they did find a law saying that “the King of the Persians might do whatever he pleased.”

The Bible warns against kings because it knows that the charisma of power is dangerous. What was true then is true now. A man like bin Laden acquires followers not only by having a potent ideology, but by having acquired previous followers, that is, by the charisma of power.

In more conventional circles the same rule applies: in Kissinger’s new book on China he writes that “Nixon complimented Mao on having transformed an ancient civilization, to which Mao replied: ‘I haven’t been able to change it. I’ve only been able to change a few places in the vicinity of Beijing.'” Kissinger then adds: “After a lifetime of titanic struggle to uproot Chinese society, there was not a little pathos in Mao’s resigned recognition of the pervasiveness of Chinese culture and the Chinese people.”

The New York Times reviewer, Michiko Kakutani, calls this “startling.” It is worse; so see pathos in Mao’s failure to kill sufficient millions to uproot the native culture is monstrous. The charisma of power sometimes works across cultures as well, and it can be frightening.

How intimidating can this be?

Allied to charisma is fear. Sometimes the fear is quite literal — the threat of the powerful to crush the powerless. But sometimes it is symbolic and no less intimidating for that: A terrifying tale that emerged from the Soviet Union reminds us of the cost of fear and force: For a long time, the crimes of Stalin were not mentioned inside the Soviet Union. The first official breaking of the taboo was by Nikita Kruschev. He delivered a secret seven-hour anti-Stalin speech in the Politburo, chronicling the dictator’s crimes. In the midst of his speech, a voice was heard from the back of the chamber: “Comrade where were you when all this was going on?” Kruschev stopped. “Who said that?” he thundered. No one stood. “Who dared to say that?” he asked again. When once more no one responded, Kurschev spoke calmly again. “Comrade,” he said, “that’s where I was.”

What is the Jewish attitude towards rulers? A blessing tells the story. When one sees a potentate, one is supposed to recite the blessing: “Blessed are you oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given of his glory to flesh and blood.” All power is derived from a higher source. Earthly rule reflects back to God. The person before you may seem a god. He is a person, with the same stubborn flaws that afflict us all, if anything, they may be magnified by power.

The Talmud teaches that during the Amidah, the central Jewish prayer, a regular worshiper bows at the beginning and end of two of the benedictions. A High Priest bows at the beginning of each of the eighteen blessings, and a king remains bowed for the entire prayer. The greater the temptation to pride, the greater the need for humility. Can one resist the charisma and intimidation of misused power? Perhaps we have a chance if we remember that human beings, however gifted or exalted, are dust and ashes. True sovereignty is Divine.

David Wolpe is rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.

Obama’s Jewish relatives

Ruth Nidesand, who was married to Pres. Obama's father, lives in Nairobi, Kenya where she runs a kindergarten

It turns out, President Obama has Jewish relatives.

This all came to life when his half-brother, who lives in China, came to Israel on business. Because of his relationship to the president, security surrounding his visit was tight. And he was asked to pressure his brother to release Jonathan Pollard, the U.S. Navy analyst who was convicted of spying for Israel.

Here’s Obama’s Jewish connection:

Ruth Nidesand was the third wife of Barack Obama, Sr. the president’s father. Her parents were Lithuanian Jews who emigrated to America.

Nidesand and Obama’s father had two sons. So the president has half-brothers who are Jews.

Half-brother Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo runs WorldNexus, an Internet company that helps Chinese corporations reach customers around the world. He’s a Brown University graduate and studied physics at Stanford. An accomplished pianist, he is married to a woman from China where he has lived since 2002.

A novelist, Ndesandjo is reportedly working on an autobiography which, presumably, will delve into his relationship with the president.

His other half-brother, David Ndesandjo, died in 1987 at the age of 20 in a motorcycle accident.

Why are Torah Jews so happy?

150 year old Torah at Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Steve Garfield photo

By JONATHAN ROSENBLUM

Over the last five years, Gallup has interviewed hundreds of thousands of Americans about their lives. On the basis of those interviews, Gallup constructed a “well-being index.”

Religious people typically ranked higher than secular, and religious Jews highest of all. Gallup even composed a composite of the happiest man in America – an Oriental living in Hawaii of above average height, over 62, married and with children, earning over $120,000 per year, and, oh yes, an Orthodox Jew. Alvin Wong, an Orthodox convert living in Hawaii, fit the portrait.

Part of the explanation of the higher levels of general “well-being” experienced by Torah Jews lies in the scientific research we cited before Pesach contrasting the long-range impact on physical health and mental acuity of “fun” activities versus that of a general feeling of purpose and fulfillment.

The pursuit of happiness in the form of hedonistic pleasures is like the pursuit of kavod (honor): the more one pursues it, the faster it recedes before one. As society increasingly turns towards the pursuit of hedonic pleasures, so have rates of depression risen. The reasons are not hard to discern.

At most, moments of fun consist of a sudden jolt from the mundane, a certain tickling of the nerve-endings. But such moments are inevitably a small percentage of one’s life. When they become the goal, the majority of one’s life is inevitably spent in the negative column. Life then resembles an endless cycle of waiting a half an hour in line for a minute-long roller cycle ride.

Most of what we experience as unhappiness comes from a certain emptiness inside. The cure requires filling that emptiness. But that cannot be done by either material goods or physical pleasures.

A Lexus cannot be somehow amalgamated to one’s being; it cannot fill up what is lacking inside us. Even when we attain the Lexus, the inner disquiet remains. Failing to recognize why, we convince ourselves that two Lexuses will do the trick, or perhaps a Maserati.

Finally, the pursuit of pleasure cuts us off from others. Other people become competitors over limited material goods; or objects for our use; or important only insofar as they honor us. Jealousy, desire and honor remove a person from the world. They literally make life not worth living.

By contrast, a feeling of connection to others offers the possibility of a constant state of well-being. In the language of our Sages, happiness is expressed as overflow, as a expansion of one’s private boundaries to include others, and ultimately to connect with Hashem. The more one feels the interconnectedness of being, the more one is led back to recognition of Hashem.

A fascinating Rabbeinu Bachye links the “men of the city [Sdom]” to the Generation of Separation, who said, “Come, let us build a city.” The latter proposed to build a tower to the very heavens and wage war against Hashem – i.e., to sever the lower and upper realms. The former forbade anyone from seeking help from another or tendering help to another; they rejected the existence of any fundamental human connection and mutual dependency.

In a Torah society, there is a constant emphasis on every member’s responsibilities and duties with respect to other members of the community and to the community as a whole. It is axiomatic that a full Torah life can only be lived in a communal context and not in isolation. Those who would be joined to Hashem must also be bound to their fellow men.

Belief in G-d necessitates belief that life has meaning and purpose. If an Infinite Being, perfect unto Himself, brought the world into existence, then He had a purpose for doing so, and the world He created is filled with purpose and meaning.

Not only does life, in general, have meaning, but so do each of our individual lives.

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, in Nefesh HaChaim, stresses that everything we do is fraught with purpose. Every time we perform a mitzvah, do an act of chesed, learn Torah, we open up the conduits of Divine blessing to the world. And, writes Reb Chaim, it should be our intention to open up those pipelines of blessing. In addition, each of us has a unique role to play in the Divine plan for revealing Himself: No one else was every born into identical circumstances, with the same abilities, or confronting the same challenges – and thus no one else can reveal precisely what we can.

The more these ideas of our singular importance, and concomitant responsibilities, become ingrained within us, the easier it is to maintain a base feeling of well-being, even in the face of the vicissitudes of life.

Read Jonathan Rosenblum at http://www.jewishmediaresources.com.

 

The Jewish view of celebrating bin Laden’s death

Celebrating bin Laden's death outside the White House. Talk Radio News Service photo by Benny Martinez

By RABBI DAVID-SETH KIRSHNER

Naomi Shemer, the Israeli poet, wrote a song entitled, Al Kol Eleh. The words begin, ‘On the honey and the bee’s sting, on the bitter and the sweet.’

Shemer was trying to explain through the medium of poetry that much in life comes with mixed emotions; good and bad, real and surreal.

The assassination of Osama bin Laden has been a mix of emotions for me:

I am glad he is no longer in this world. He was a terrible person and guilty for many deaths before and after 9/11.

I feel an incredible sense of pride towards our troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world.

There are no words to adequately describe the courage it took our leadership – from the commander in chief to the generals and advisers – to green-light the plan.

I am proud of President Bush, who rightly began the manhunt for this evil villain and, I am indebted to President Obama for completing the task.

There is no proper way to say thank you to the forever-anonymous brave men and women that rappelled down ropes with guns and infra-red goggles to fulfill a mission on behalf of an entire nation.

But, even with all of those feelings, I cannot celebrate a death. It does not feel right. It does not feel Jewish. When I saw hundreds of young people chanting and cheering in front of the White House, at Times Square and with Ground Zero in the background even before the president addressed the nation, I had a hard time differentiating between us and them.

Judaism is quite clear; sometimes people need to be punished for their crimes. The Torah and Talmud explicitly state that one is justified in taking a life when defending their own or another’s life. However, nowhere are we obligated, encouraged or even allowed to celebrate such a death.

There is a well-known Midrash that teaches about the children of Israel crossing the Sea of Reeds. When they successfully make it through and the Egyptians are wiped out in the crashing waves while in chase behind, the Israelites begin to dance and sing and offer the Az Yashir hymn. The children ask God to join them in their jubilant dance. God snaps back to the celebrants, “How dare I dance with you when my creations were just wiped out.”

Obviously, God was complicit – if not fully responsible – for the death of the Egyptians that looked to enslave and punish the Israelite people. But, it was not something that God endorsed celebrating.

Along those same lines, just a few short days ago, when we gathered around the table for our Passover Seder, we took from our overflowing cup and poured out some wine for each of the ten plagues. We observe this ritual because we cannot drink from an overflowing cup when other people, in this case the Egyptians, had to suffer.

Fast forward to this generation. The Jewish people took comfort in the capture and subsequent trial of Adolph Eichmann but, I found no accounts of Jews or gentiles, in Israel or abroad, dancing in the streets or handing out candies or baking baklava when he was hanged on that fateful day in May of 1962. Most in Israel were quite satisfied with the court’s verdict but they did not rejoice or drape themselves in flags and proclaim sovereignty on the street corners.

It is no different today when Israeli leadership is forced to take out radical and evil terrorists foresworn to her destruction. With Eichmann and Hamas militants, then and now, people heard the news, paused for a moment and went on with their days, fully aware of the very real juxtaposition of the bitter and the sweet; the stinger and the honey.

Bin Laden’s death does bring a sense of justice to the senseless murder of thousands of innocent people. Our world feels a bit safer, even if just for a short while. Still, our tradition teaches us that our job is not to celebrate or applaud or chant hymns but, to pause and reflect on the painful circumstances that led us here in the first place.

May this unique moment in our American history be filled with pride and reflection. May our response serve as a model to all of our neighbors of what makes U.S. different. May it bring peace to our world.

God bless our troops and God bless the United States of America.

David-Seth Kirshner is rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey