Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Is Love?

I just received this from a friend - though I almost always delete what he sends, for some reason I stopped to read this particular email. I'm glad I did.

What is Love?

For those who misuse the word love, even kids have a better understanding than adults. A group of professional people posted this question to a group of 4 to 8 year olds: "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.

1. When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her now all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.
Rebecca - age 8

2. When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouths.
Billy - age 4

3. Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving Cologne and they go out and smell each other.
Kari - age 5

4. Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs.
Chrissy - age 6

5. Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.
Terri - age 4

6. Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.
Danny - age 7

7. Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My mommy and daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.
Emily - age 8

8. Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
Bobby - age 7

9. If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.
Nikka - age 6

10. Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.
Noelle - age 7

11. Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends, even after they know each other so well.
Tommy - age 6

12. My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.
Clare - age 6

13. Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.
Chris - age 7

14. Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.
Mary Ann - age 4

15. When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.
Karen - age 7

16. Love is when mommy sees daddy on the toilet and doesn't think it's gross.
Mark - age 6

17. You really shouldn't say "I LOVE YOU" unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.
Jessica - age 8

And the winner was a 4 year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly man who had just lost his wife. When the child saw the man cry, the little boy went over into the man's yard and climbed on top of the man's lap and just sat there.

When the boy's mother asked him what he'd said to the neighbor, the little boy said, "Nothing, I just helped him cry."

Friday, May 20, 2011


My Twitter feed exploded – EXPLODED – yesterday afternoon. You would have thought there had been a terrorist attack, or perhaps Donald Trump had reentered the presidential race. What made my Twitter feed explode was something I had to read twice: President Obama had called on the Israelis to acknowledge the ’67 borders as the basis for a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians (UN Resolution 242, for the uninitiated).

Really? THIS is what made my friends and acquaintances go crazy? And it wasn’t just my Jewish friends – oh no – going apoplectic. My Christian, Israel-loving friends had gone even MORE mad. “Time to pray” some said. Well, they are certainly right about that.

What is an Israel-loving American Jew – who happens to be a Democrat – to do about the current state of affairs? I look left and right and see pundit after pundit declare it’s time for a major paradigm shift; American Jews may now withhold support for Obama in 2012…which Republican candidate will step up and “out-Israel” the field for the love and affection (and money) of American Jews…and what about me? Should I disavow my political leanings and pledge support to the next Republican candidate for President who can offer me the most sincere, God-inspired pledge of fealty to Israel and the Jewish people? Are you meshuganah??

Let’s first lay out a few simple, elucidating facts.

1) UN Resolution 242 called for Israel to withdraw from territory gained in the 1967 war. 242 has been the basis – some would say obstacle – for every major Israel-Palestinian peace dialogue for the last 25 years. The Oslo Accords of 1993 – you’ll remember the poignant handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat – essentially codified an agreement based on the ’67 borders as a starting point. The borders of 1967 have ALWAYS been the center of fulcrum, so to speak, as a basis of negotiations.

2) President Obama said nothing new or controversial. He didn’t demand that Israel withdraw from land taken in the ’67 war. “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Maybe I’m missing something, but MY read is that he’s calling for the borders as the basis for negotiations – not the end of them.

3) Americans love Israel, and want two states. Public polling couldn’t be more clear on this. In a poll conducted last year by The Israel Project, a majority of Americans agreed with the sentiment that “Even with all the problems that America faces at home now, we must still work hard to create a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Unless someone has the land deed to Madagascar, it’s pretty clear where that second state is going to go.

4) Most importantly, ISRAELIS believe this is the right thing to do. More than 3 in 5 Israelis support the two state solution. And more than 3 in 5 accept the 1967 lines as a starting point for negotiations. If the ISRAELIS want it – for crying out loud – why should WE have such a problem with it?? (of course, the answer is we don’t; just a handful of screeching politicians make it seem that way).

So as we enter the silly season of Presidential politics, I think it would serve everyone to step back from the ledge – or away from their Twitter or Facebook page – and consider this: the Peace Process has failed. Year after year, decade after decade, leader after leader, the same language and promises and stalemates repeat themselves time and again. To allege that Barack Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus” is a gross misrepresentation of his intention – not to mention completely wrong, given that American Presidents have said and done far worse with no such outcomes (remember George HW Bush cutting off loan guarantees for West Bank settlements?).

To simply give in to the political posturing robs us of yet another opportunity to have a real, measurable impact on what has long been an aching sore in the backside of American foreign policy – nay, this is bigger than American foreign policy. Two peoples – cousins – have been at war for the better part of 65 years, and I, for one, welcome the effort by President Obama, even as I remain skeptical. Because the sad truth is, if history is a lesson, to be optimistic is a little crazy – call it my Meshuganah Conundrum. I want to believe – truly – that there can be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, with two states, recognized by the other. Even if it does sound a little crazy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Women - A Two State Solution?

Israel has been called a country of cleavages: secular vs. religious, Arab vs. Jew, Ashkenazi vs. Sephardi. One of the most troubling cleavages for me, however, is the schism over gender roles. Today is International Women’s Day – the 100th anniversary (as if such things needed to be marked in time) – and the Internet is replete with stories of great women, of their accomplishments, and the distance they still must travel for equality (note: I am NOT a woman). But what you won’t hear too much of, I fear, is the situation for women in Israel, where nearly half of the candidates of officers in the IDF are women, yet there are bus lines in Jerusalem where women must sit in the back of the bus, separated from men.

I’m sure it has been studied, but there must be more than just a little truth to the notion that the most successful societies are ones in which women are empowered to do great things. A quick glance at the world’s wealthiest countries will also reveal countries where women have fared considerably better than their sisters in less-developed countries. Countries where they serve in the armed forces, occupy corner offices in the largest companies, and hold power at the highest levels of government.

And, yet, the statistics are staggering, even for these “developed” countries. Women still earn less for the same amount of work than men, are frequently overlooked for promotions, and are far less represented in government than their total population would warrant. And, if you are like me, this becomes even more troubling when you realize that the smartest, most capable people you know lack a Y chromosome.

But, such inequalities pale in comparison to the situation we see in the most religious of communities in Israel. Women – perhaps revered for their most gender-limiting roles – are nonetheless captive to a philosophy defined by what any rational person would call institutionalized misogyny. Women in these shtetls are discouraged from working, from partaking of civic responsibilities reserved only for their male counterparts, from enjoying the very essence of living in a free and modern society.

But it is the separation that I find most odious. To this day, I refuse to go to the Kotel – the Western Wall – because I cannot possibly derive spiritual satisfaction from a place where I am prohibited from enjoying it with the most important women in my life. For my wife – a Cantor – it is an affront I cannot imagine. But for my two young daughters, it is an insult that as a parent I cannot tolerate.

Perhaps there will come a day when those who decide such things will recognize that men and women are equals, both created in the image of God, and equally deserving of the privileges and protection a modern society can and should offer. On this International Women’s Day, let us all resolve to work toward a day when our daughters will no longer fear being forced to sit on the back of a bus.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tweet, Pray, Love

The last week in Egypt has been stunning, and inspiring, and not just a little bit scary, and though no one knows how things will end up (or who the real winners and losers will be), there are three images that have left an indelible imprint on my memory. For me, they serve as a reminder that while we watch these events unfold on our televisions and computers from 5000 miles away, there are real people involved – there is a human element that cannot be ignored, and for better or for worse, we are all God’s children and are connected – if by nothing else – by those things that we all do, and often take for granted.




Friday, January 7, 2011

Debbie Friedman

There are many people who know Debbie better than I, but I do know her, and wanted to share a few thoughts about her. I know Debbie in three different ways. As a young, rather confused 20-something working for NFTY, I had the honor of being Debbie’s “body man” for a concert she was doing at a NFTY event, even getting the opportunity to play a little bodyguard at the front of the stage. I met her in her hotel room with her pianist, heard a couple of ribald jokes on the way down to the stage from her room, and ended things with a hug, a smile, and a friend.

The second way I know Debbie is through my wife, Rosalie. Rosalie is a cantor and a songleader, and through her I have known Debbie as a friend and mentor, someone who both inspires and encourages. She has always tried to lift Rosalie up, professionally and personally, and to see her impact on Rosalie has always left my heart warm.

The third way I know Debbie is through my mother, and it’s that relationship that made the greatest impression on me. The first time my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, we got very lucky – my mom went through all of her treatments like a champ, fighting through the chemo, surgery and recovery with the spirit and fire for which we had all come to love her. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Debbie got involved. For the life of me I can’t remember how, but Debbie and my mother began exchanging emails. My mother was a convert, a true daughter of Ruth, and had always been the driving Jewish force in our family. She was also incredibly musical, and Debbie’s music enveloped her with a warm yet powerful embrace, welcoming my mother into Judaism in its own unique way.

I can’t say I know the nature of the conversations between my mom and Debbie; all I can say is that Debbie took the time and energy to reach out and befriend a woman she didn’t know, a woman who was in clear need of a kind, heartfelt mishbeirach. It is for this that I have always loved Debbie. Not for her music, which I adore, or her friendship, which I treasure, or for the role she has played in my wife’s life, which I cherish. For a brief time, long before darker days clouded my mother’s sky, she and Debbie Friedman were friends. When my mom was in need of a r'fuah sh'leimah, Debbie was there for her.

Debbie – I am now here for you. We all are. You have always been here for us in our times of need. Now we are here for you.