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Created: Wed Nov 17, 2010 at 22:31:13 PM EST
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Book Review: The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

by: siweni

Mon Jun 09, 2014 at 07:43:17 AM EDT

— by Steve Wenick

In his new book, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking facts, as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, popularly referred to as the "Rebbe" by his followers and admirers worldwide.

In a span of 92 years the Rebbe traveled from his birthplace, the city of Nikolayev, Ukraine, studied in the cosmopolitan cities of Berlin and Paris, where he earned degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, and finally settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It was there he reluctantly donned the mantel as the Seventh Lubavitcher Rabbi and humbly assumed the title of the Rebbe.

Prior to his "coronation" he had already attained the stature of a spiritual magnet who attracted into his sphere of influence a warren of world leaders, as well as ordinary people who sought his wise counsel and blessings. More than a biography, this book relates historic events bonded with personal insights and coupled with private moments, which bring the reader to yichudusim, private moments of consultation, with the Rebbe.

More after the jump.

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Bad Deal Gone Nuclear

by: siweni

Fri Nov 08, 2013 at 13:48:14 PM EST

    - by Steve Wenick

Now that Obamacare has proven to be a debacle, like all previous presidents, President Obama is looking for some way to have his legacy reflect on his presidency in a positive way. That is where Iran comes in.

Obama will cut a deal with Iran by lifting sanctions in response to Iran's promise not to develop nuclear weapons, which is no deal at all. Iran will hide their nuclear development program - period. To save face the United States will pretend that it doesn't know it. And thanks to the loosening of sanctions Iran will have more funds available to finance its clandestine nuclear program. But for most of the world it doesn't matter. What matters to them is that their Kumbaya dream comes true. A dream where everyone makes nice to each other. The world may imagine how it wants things to be but reality has a way of turning dreams into nightmares.

President Obama apparently doesn't know that, like so many other things he has recently professed not knowing, but all the players in the Middle East do. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and possibly Egypt, know all too well Iran's duplicity. Consequently those bad actors have begun making overtures to develop their own nuclear weapons. As a result of this administration's failing policies nuclear proliferation in the Middle East will be the end result.

As for Europe nothing much has changed. It doesn't care much about anything, other than getting oil from Iran and certainly couldn't care less about the security of Israel. In fact many the EU members have been and continue to be outright antagonistic to Israel. Their hostility is driven in part by anti-Semitism and in part by their misguided ideologies.

Once again Israel stands alone with only G-d at her back, a situation which this president apparently does not lose much sleep over.

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My Visit to Amsterdam

by: siweni

Wed May 01, 2013 at 00:39:36 AM EDT

— by Steve Wenick

Having just learned that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has abdicated her throne to her son Willem-Alexander, my thoughts return to that special place where I spent a few days two weeks ago — Holland.

Where can you munch on a herring sandwich topped with chopped onions and pickles, then polish it off with a Corenwijn chaser, while watching seven million tulip bulbs laboriously pushing their way above ground to greet the springtime sun? Why, in Keukenhof Holland, of course. But where in Holland can you get a plate of gefilte fish garnished with chrane, other than in your bubbie's kitchen?

More affter the jump.

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Do Hypocritical Atheists Exist?

by: siweni

Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 08:39:42 AM EDT

— by Steve Wenick

Have you ever heard someone call an atheist a hypocrite for committing an immoral, unethical or illegal act; probably not. But if a religious person commits the slightest transgression, impropriety, or unethical action he or she is immediately labeled a hypocrite. My question is why is a religious sinner labeled a hypocrite while an atheist, engaging in the same illicit behavior, is not?

Does being godless absolve one of moral responsibility; of course not. Most atheists would assert that they have high standards of ethical behavior, and if that is so, why are they not dubbed hypocritical when they violate their own designed code of ethics? The reason could be that there are those who regard themselves as 'enlightened' and that belief in a religion is a crutch for the dependent, superstitious misguided and insecure. The fact that some of the greatest minds of history were men of faith, such as Moses, Jesus, Maimonides, Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Faraday, Boyle, and Descartes is disregarded by those who are hostile to religion. For them religion as nothing more than a compendium of fairy tales, archaic rules, and absurd rituals devoid of any relevance to the lives of today's sophisticated intelligentsia.

More after the jump.

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St Patrick's Day - Israeli Style

by: siweni

Fri Mar 15, 2013 at 11:24:21 AM EDT

— by Steve Wenick

Yes, St Patrick's Day is celebrated in Israel and that's no blarney! It's the day when green beer flows, Irish shanties are sung, and tall tales are spun. I never imagined that in Israel there would be no less than 76 pubs offering Happy Hour Specials to those who wore a bit of green that day. Although I wouldn't exactly call St. Paddy's Day a national holiday, there were a surprising number of Israelis who became Irish, if only for a day. At home in Cherry Hill, I never celebrated St. Paddy's Day, but being in Israel somehow made me feel that it was my duty, as an American, to at least don the green and go to an "Irish" pub.

More after the jump.

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Museum Surprise

by: siweni

Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 06:38:19 AM EST

   - by Steve Wenick

I very much enjoyed reading Pam Kosky's article, which recently appeared in this publication, "Ancient Roman Mosaic Makes Final U.S. Stop at Penn Museum". With that in mind I would like to share an anecdote about the exhibition.

Having reluctantly acceded to my wife's wishes to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of the recently uncovered (1996) Lod Mosaic, I steeled myself for a tedious and boring afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania Archaeology and Anthropology Museum. Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony I joined the rather eclectic and eccentric group of academic looking visitors who were scrutinizing the huge mosaic prominently displayed on the floor just outside the Canaan Exhibition Hall. Not wanting to look out of place I mimicked what seemed to be the prevailing meditative pose they assumed as I too scrutinized the artistic worth of the myriad of tesserae; (multi colored small stones)which made up that magnificent work.

While in thought I overheard someone speaking Hebrew. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the speaker was a distinguished and well-dressed man standing close by me. The comments he made to his companion were about several ancient oil lamps, which had been discovered in Israel, now prominently displayed in the adjacent Roman Exhibition Hall. Never one to let a Hebrew speaking person pass me by without engaging them one way or another I echoed his remark in Hebrew just loud enough for him to hear it with the expectation that he would react to me. He did.

As it turns out the gentleman lives in Rehovot, a town next to Mazkeret Batya, where my daughter Jennifer and her family live. We talked briefly about places we knew in common in the surrounding neighborhoods like the upscale restaurant Achuzat Margo (Chateau Margaux), where family and friends recently celebrated my wife's milestone birthday, and Bilu Center an overcrowded shopping mall located close by. We ended our conversation by reminiscing about shopping in Shuk Hapishpashim, a flea market located in Old Jaffa.

As we prepared to take leave of each other I introduced myself to him and he responded by telling me his name; it was Yaron Sideman. His name sounded vaguely familiar and I had the feeling I had seen his face before but I could not remember where. As he walked away and stepped out of the Roman Exhibition Hall disappearing down a corridor, I was suddenly struck with the realization that I had been talking to Yaron Sideman, The Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.

As it turned out the Lod Mosaic exhibition and accompanying lecture were fascinating and very informative. And in addition to having been educated about the mosaic, I also learned that even the moribund halls of a dry and dusty museum can hold some interesting surprises.

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Sometimes They Do Listen: Sunday Times Recants Grotesque Cartoon

by: siweni

Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 11:58:08 AM EST

( - promoted by Publisher)

— by Steve Wenick

I recently wrote a letter to the The Sunday Times, a London newspaper, castigating it for publishing an outrageous cartoon which portrayed a Jew in the most hideous manner. Their initial public response was that it was a criticism of Bibi Netanyahu's policies and it was by no means meant to disparage all Jews. However, as I pointed out to the newspaper's editors, Bibi has neither a large hook nose nor large rat-like ears; a favorite Der Sturmer-like characterization of Jews.  Therefore their lame excuse was unacceptable and their cartoon inexcusable.

To my shock, the acting editor of The Sunday Times responded to me in a somewhat conciliatory manner. Here is the correspondence I received via email:

Dear Wenick

I am grateful to you for writing to The Sunday Times and expressing your views so clearly. I'd like to apologise at the outset for the offence caused by Gerald Scarfe's cartoon published last Sunday.

Its publication was a terrible mistake. The timing - on Holocaust Memorial Day - was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque. As someone who understands the history and iconography in this context, I appreciate fully why publication has caused such offence and I apologise unreservedly for my part in that.

I sought an urgent meeting with leading members of the Jewish community, and am pleased to say that we got together on Tuesday evening. It was a frank but constructive meeting. Mick Davis, Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, accepted my apology on behalf of the group and told the press afterwards that the community "now looks forward to constructively moving on from this affair".

I hope you will find this reply reassuring; I thank you again for your correspondence.

Yours sincerely

Martin Ivens
Acting Editor

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Are Shabbat and Kashrut Bad For Business?

by: siweni

Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 14:17:01 PM EST

— by Steve Wenick

As a founding member of the National Museum of American Jewish History I was troubled to learn of the museum's decision regarding the discarding of time honored Shabbat observances. The museum's administration has decided to sell tickets on Shabbat, keep the café open and rent space for Friday night events. Also the café will no longer be kosher and non-kosher catering will be allowed. As if all those changes were not enough, it was decided to change the annual marketing label "Being Jewish on Christmas" to "Being __ on Christmas". They deleted the word 'Jewish' from their slogan but kept 'Christmas'.

More after the jump.

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In Search of Meaning

by: siweni

Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:05:27 PM EST

  - by Steve Wenick

I spent years in search of the proverbial 'meaning of life' and my quest took me to the far corners of my psyche. I suppose part of my motivation was that as a teen and young adult during the anti-establishment generation of the late 50's the Bohemian movement spoke to me.  I recall the strip of coffee shops, strung along Samson Street in center city Philadelphia, where the denizens of the night gathered to 'dig' sounds and listen to home grown poetry and prose. Men wore beards and women were draped in earth tone colored sackcloth. The natural look was in and makeup out. Jazz and Classical music were the point and counter point of the emerging hip generation when the Blues and Bee-bop of Miles, Parker, Mingus and Monk, comingled with the classical keys and strings of Beethoven and Mozart, accompanied with the infusion of the atonality compositions of Stravinsky and Schoenberg.  Only those innovators' last names were needed to identify them as their distinctive creative sounds reverberated off the dimly lit cave-like stone walls of Samson Street's coffee houses.

As is the fate of all decades, the 50's receded into the past and became passé; relinquishing its tenure to the next decade. It was the 60's and the Hippy generation's outcry against the social order of the day was in full throat. I was still in a Don Quixotic mode, searching for the impossible dream. I discarded my taupe colored garments and replaced them with a splash of outrageous cacophonous colored cloths intended to jar the psyche of authoritarianism. A wave of anti-establishment washed over the heretofore shores of conservatism and the body language of the newest generation epitomized the shedding of the fetters of authority. Thus was born the free-spirit generation. VW mini buses were routinely decorated with flowers symbols of love and peace and in vogue were long unkempt locks of hair. Remnants of that generation are still evident today, symbolized by the entangled graying shocks of aged hippies. Their hopes and dreams of a utopian world still cloud their vision like a fog slowly descending upon the evening hours of their lives.

The sixties and seventies were decades of exploration for me. During those turbulent years of civil rights marches and riots I ventured into climes heretofore foreign to me. I traveled to Israel in the late 50's in search of my roots, later my search lead me to the stacks which lined the libraries in order to study the ways of the Sikkimese people of Sikkim, a small country bordering Nepal. The reason I chose to study the people of Sikkim was because they were isolated from the world and I thought they would be a source of unadulterated thought and deed. Soon Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and any other "ism" you can imagine became the prerequisites which I studied in order to find the meaning of life.

By the late 60's I had completed my army obligation, had secured a job and was the father of three daughters. The time had come to face the real world. The years flew by and when our preteen children began to ask important values laden questions my wife Bobbie and I had to make the most important decision of our lives; it was a decision which I thought would affect my daughters more than us. That decision was how we were going to raise our children.

Having explored the world of both normative and any exotic religions as an adult, I decided that to be fair I should also embark upon learning something about Judaism as an adult. Too many of my fellow Jews learned about their religion for only a few short years at an elementary school level. The vast majority never went a day beyond Bar Mitzvah. Therefore the understanding of their own traditions, which were formed in early adolescence, does not hold up well against adult understandings of religion or dismissal of it.

Since the heart of Judaism has to do more with practicing its tenets than with belief and understanding, I decided to chart a course of Na'Aseh, V'Nishma, and figuratively meaning action before understanding. Of course that notion is antithetical to modern day philosophies of learning. Nevertheless, as a child of the Sixties I was delighted to explore Robert Frost's "The road not taken", and depart from the prevailing ideas of education.

So Bobbie and I embarked upon a new adventure together not really knowing where our quest would take us. Rather than studying about Judaism we decided to live it first and learn about its value through experience. If it would work for us we would study the reasons why it worked later. We began by lighting candles every Friday night to the strains of songs from Fiddler on the Roof. It helped set the right mood for Shabbat. Over time the Broadway's show tunes faded giving way to our own sweet strains of Shalom Aleichem, Aishet Chayil, Kiddush and Shabbat Zimirot. Practice did not make perfect but it did begin to pave the way for a religious life whose meaning was beginning to take root in the soil of our own traditions. It was not too long before we also embraced Kashrut, Shabbat Services, and Holiday observance.

After many twists and turns, detours and dead ends we decided that the practice of Judaism was the path we should follow because it best suited us. This came as quite a surprise to me because I had spent the first three decades of my life rejecting the wisdom of my parents which was manifest by their adherence to Jewish practice. As the years passed, our commitment to Judaism strengthened and our children followed us through the many obstacles life inevitably placed before them. But like all paths that lead to a better place the destination is not the goal, it is the process by which you travel that is most important. And for our family that process continues till this day and on my way to find the meaning of life, I found meaning in my life.  

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A Kippa Question... Goes Unanswered.

by: siweni

Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 09:22:37 AM EST

  - by Steve Wenick

On November 9th I posed a question here, "Why do you think that Jewish youth, and adults for that matter, are reluctant to wear a Kippa in public while living in the freest country in the world, The United States of America?" As expected, I received no responses. The reason I anticipated that no one would respond is that the answer would force Jews to confront the illusion held by so many that we are regarded just like every other of the United States. But we are not.

In the eyes of the law all citizens are to be treated fairly regardless of which group we are members. And as Americans we are encouraged to embrace and celebrate diversity, but like any other minority, Jews are often more tolerated than celebrated. We are not alone in that undesirable position; the Blacks in America know that all too well.

Occasionally we see head coverings worn in public such as the Turban which identifies the wearer as a practicing Sikh, the Kufi as a Muslim, and the Kippa as a Jew. Today those coverings are not removed when entering a building as once was the practice of the citizens in many Western countries. However Americans entering a church or when non-military personnel hear the strains of our national anthem they are expected to remove their hat even today. When minorities such as Sikhs, Muslims and Jews do not abide by that custom, for their religious beliefs forbid it, they are often looked at by fellow citizens with a jaundiced eye.

I was once told by a fellow Jew that Jews bring envy and hatred upon themselves because they act with an air of superiority. They point out how many Nobel Prize winners they have produced and other achievements in numbers way beyond their percentage of the population. Of course that reason is false because throughout history Jews were hated and persecuted even when they were lowly slaves or powerless victims shoveled into the ovens of Europe. Nobel Prize winners, they were not!

People like to be accepted by other people. It is human nature. But the very nature of Judaism keeps Jews from being like everyone else. In the past Jews were very different from Gentiles. We lived in different neighborhoods (not always by choice) the foods we ate, the clothing we wore were different. We prayed in a foreign tongue, we went to synagogue, not church. We became a Bar or Bat Mitzvah but were not Baptized. Some of us could speak Yiddish or a smattering of it and the majority learned to read Hebrew. We discouraged intermarriage

Years ago Reform rabbis even dressed like priests and ministers by wearing clerical collars in an effort to blend in with the prevailing Christian society. It is understandable that Jews wanted to be like everyone else. The problem if we are like everyone else we are no longer us.  So we began to dress, eat, act and think like everyone else. We shed the outer trappings of our uniqueness as Jews in an effort to fit in. For many, we have succeeded and assimilation has been the consequence of those efforts.

Not until the establishment of the State of Israel, have Jews been the majority religion in any country in the world. For over two-thousand years our people have been referred to as, "Wandering Jews", a people exiled from their homeland. Historically Jews have chosen to keep themselves apart from the majority culture, not because of a sense of superiority, but because of the practice of a different life style. And the non-Jew was more than willing to help us to keep us apart. For centuries churches and mosques preached anti-Semitism partly because of the Jews rejection of the Jesus as the Messiah and Mohammed as a prophet and partly because of Jews being a minority, thus making them an easy target. Negative stereotypes also inevitably evolved from Jews being different from the majority culture. We may not have been strangers in the lands we inhabited but our 'strange' practices evoked suspicion. We were regarded as the 'other', the outsider, a price exacted partly because of our self-imposed separatism coupled with the willing intolerance of our fellow citizens.

Unless Jews start acting and thinking like everyone else in their prevailing societies, anti-Jewish feelings will persist as products of suspicion and resentment. If we learn to accept, integrate, assimilate and become part of the prevailing society we will of course cease being behavioral and practicing Jews. Granted we can still adhere to the important social, ethical and moral values promulgated by Judaism and even continue to enjoy a good bagels and lox breakfast. But non-Jews can do that as well and sadly then one would not be able to distinguish a Jew from a non-Jew.  

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Gun Toting Teachers

by: siweni

Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 05:17:09 AM EST

— by Steve Wenick

There has been a lot of talk since the Newton massacre about arming teachers in the classroom. The NRA and Second Amendment advocates are strongly in support of the idea. Unfortunately there has been a lot of misrepresentation by some in the media that in Israel the school children's classrooms are filled with gun toting teachers. They are not.

I've been in Israel dozens of times and accompanied my grandchildren to their elementary schools and high schools and not once did I see a teacher packing heat. There may be rare exceptions as in the case of disputed territories, but that does not negate the rule that teachers do not carry guns in the classroom. However there is an armed security guard at the gate of every school.

More after the jump.

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The Sixth Candle

by: siweni

Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 22:59:17 PM EST

   - by Steve Wenick

'Twas the sixth night of Hanukkah, and what do you know, he was sitting in front of me with cheeks all aglow. He was round and jolly, with a beard white as snow, sporting a red cap on his head just in case it would snow. So what was he doing sitting and eating in a kosher (Chalav Yisroel and Pas Yisroel) restaurant, with all its chatter and clatter, as he nibbled on treats from a chipped porcelain platter.

Well he wasn't Santa that's for sure, unless the jolly old fellow had taken to wearing tzitzit. He was just an elderly gent enjoying snacks and a steaming bowl of onion soup at the Vegetable Garden Restaurant in New York's Garment District. I usually don't do this but, as I was leaving the restaurant, I asked him, "how's the soup"? His answer consisted of one word, "Delicious" and with the twinkle in his eye he did not have to say any more.

As I turned to leave, he asked in a flash, "Where are you from?" I told him Cherry Hill and the look on his face told me that he wasn't sure exactly where that was so I added, "It's near Philadelphia". That coaxed only a slight smile from his lips as he was clearly unimpressed. By that time my granddaughter Tal had finished gathering her stuff and caught up to me. I explained to the gent that this was my granddaughter. He asked her where she was from, to which she replied, "Israel".

Not unexpectedly he began speaking to her in Hebrew with a very distinct American accent. After the usual "where are you from" pleasantries he reached into his pocket and took out a shiny Susan B. Anthony silver dollar coin and with a nod gave it to her. Tal did not want to accept it but he insisted saying, "It's Hanukkah gelt and if you don't want to accept it for yourself then take it and be my Sheliach (messenger) and give it to the first needy person you see when you return to Israel".

Tal acceded to his wish, took the gelt and flung her scarf around her neck as we started out of the restaurant - when suddenly the gent reached into his wallet, took out a business card and handed it to me. As he did it he exclaimed, "Happy Hanukkah to all and to all a good night". I hesitated a moment before leaving, just long enough to read the card. On it was printed, "Millinery Center Synagogue, 1025 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY, Rabbi Hayim S. Wahrman".

This story was originally posted in the Varied Voices blog of the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey in December 2010.

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Provocations: What Was Bibi Thinking?

by: siweni

Thu Dec 06, 2012 at 09:43:34 AM EST

— by Steve Wenick
"Israel has the right to respond to provocative Palestinian Authority moves."Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
That was Bibi's response to the UN General Assembly's vote to give the Palestinians a non-member observer state status. But having the 'right' does not obligate nor does it necessitate exercising that right.

More after the jump.

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Chanukah Caroling?

by: siweni

Sun Dec 02, 2012 at 08:37:46 AM EST

   - by Steve Wenick

My Facebook friend Scott posted a question which was, "What's the Jewish equivalent of "caroling"? He then added, "I'd like to go around from house to house singing Chanukah songs this year."

What a novel idea, Jewish caroling. The question intrigued me so, that I tried to find something that would be like Jewish caroling but I only came up with an empty stocking. Not one to be easily deterred I decided that I would rent a sleigh and take a ride among the fir trees close to my house hoping that the experience would inspire me to come up with a suggestion for my inquisitive friend. Unfortunately I came up empty minded and to make matters worse when I returned home I found that someone had put a lump of coal in my empty stocking. Maybe I should have worn a red suit.

Undaunted I kicked the snow off my boots and settled in front of my fireplace and began roasting chestnuts in its open fire. I thought if I could create the right mood it would get my creative juices flowing while sipping a cup of hot steaming wassail. Still nothing; then it hit me. If I could find recordings of some Chanukah songs and play them that might help me come up with a plan. Let's see there is 'Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel', no - it makes me dizzy. Then maybe 'Sivevone, Sivivone', no good - it makes feel like I'm going around in circles. Maoz Tzur came to mind but it sounds too much like Meine Tzuris and that's not a good thing. And finally there's, 'Oh, Chanukah' but that reminds me too much of 'O Tannenbaum'.

Then in a flash of brilliance an idea struck me that made me feel like I was as smart as one of the legendary wise men. Why not tell Scott to go house to house caroling only Christmas songs written by Jews. There are quite a few you know... in fact we all know them.

Let's see there is:

The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) - Mel Torme and Bob Wells.

Do They Know It's Christmas? - Bob Geldof

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - Johnny Marks

Holly Jolly Christmas - Johnny Marks

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree  - Johnny Marks

I'll Be Home for Christmas - Walter Kent, who wrote the music and Kim Gannon Lyrics.

Silver Bells - Jay Livingston and Ran Evans...yep!

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year -- George Wylie

Santa Baby - Fred Ebb and Joan Javits

Sleigh Ride - Mitchell Parish who wrote the lyrics, was Jewish and born "Michael Hyman Pashelinsky".

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! - lyricist Sammy Cahn and music composer Jule Styne

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays - Al Stillman, the lyricist...

White Christmas - Irving Berlin

What do you think? He could call it Chanukah Charoling just to make it sound a bit more authentically Jewish and carry a lit Hanukkia to light his way. On second thought maybe he should skip the whole Chanukah caroling idea and just call it a Silent Night.

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A Kippah Question

by: siweni

Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 07:37:14 AM EST

— by Steve Wenick

There's something sad about seeing many of our American youth wearing a kippah while visiting Israel.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not against them wearing a kippah; I am gratified by it. The reason I think it is so sad is because the vast majority of those same kids will not wear one at home in America other than when sheltered from the outside world. For example, they have no problem wearing their Jewish identity openly when going to synagogue, attending religious school or participating in a Jewish event but wearing one in the general public, well that's a different story.

More after the jump.

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Misleading Media

by: siweni

Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 09:26:52 AM EST

  - by Steve Wenick

I marvel at the seamless ease with which the media parrots the incorrect use of words employed by the Palestinians. The Palestinians have mastered the art of casting their side of disputes with Israel in misleading and often totally bogus language. For example, they consistently refer to the disputed territories as the pre-1967 borders. The term pre-1967 refers to the borders as they existed in 1948, which for Israelis means no Kotel, no Mt. Scopus, no Hadassah Hospital, no Hebrew University, no Jerusalem - not gonna happen.

The so-called border, a term which the Palestinians have latched on to, is not a border at all. It is an armistice line which was drawn at the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict in 1949. Today the line is commonly referred to as the Green Line. It is important to note that there is a world of difference between the term 'border' and the term 'armistice line' in the court of international law. Borders are recognized as permanent, while armistice lines are temporary demarcation lines agreed upon by disputing parties until a final settlement can be reached. Once the territories in dispute are agreed upon by the Palestinians and Israelis, permanent borders will be drawn as part of a final agreement and peace treaty.  

Those who have very little interest in Israel remaining a homeland for the Jews regard the term 'borders' and 'lines' as mere semantic differences. They claim that what are really at stake are the poor refugees living in squalor, not the shades of meanings of words. That is the Palestinian Authority's line and it is the border over which Israel will not allow the Palestinian Authority to cross unchallenged. The proper use of the term border is critical because that is the word which will be penned on any final peace agreement document and signed by the parties in dispute. It is as unfortunate as it is unfair that the media's reporting is skewed in such a way that on the surface it might appear to the casual observer that it has embraced the Palestinians' arguments.

Unfortunately the media is complicit in perpetuating the Palestinian's delusional idea that Israel is going to retreat to the 1948 borders. That has as much chance of happening as America returning California to Mexico. The media indulges in portraying the Palestinians as poor victims of land grabbing Jewish colonialists. They are also complicit in their support of the cynical actions of Palestinians who shamelessly parade their women and children in front of the camera for trumped up photo opportunities. The media delights in the deception because firstly, it sells and secondly, they side with the weak, even when the weak are wrong.

Fortunately there are those who are beginning to challenge media bias. There is a growing cadre of courageous individuals, who value clarity of thought over misplaced and morally obtuse emotionally charged feelings. They will neither be silenced nor intimidated by a blatantly bias media. Unfortunately too many of the media still persist to routinely lament, in woeful tones, the shabby state of affairs of a people who are victims of their own folly. They are a people who foolishly elected regimes more interested in tearing down Israel than improving their lives. Hopefully someday the media's slanted commentary will give way to truth in reporting and their anti-Israel bias will be a thing of the past.

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Israel Under Siege

by: siweni

Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 21:05:12 PM EST

   -  by Steve Wenick

Update 11/21/2012: Israel did not send ground troops into Gaza but Hamas sent theirs into Tel Aviv. Bus full of civilians blown up in downtown Tel Aviv by Hamas Islamo-terrorists.

Today rockets stopped raining down on the Jews living in their ancestral homeland Israel. Hopefully the cease fire will hold.

But if the calm doesn't hold, fortunately Jews are no longer at the mercy of European or Arab majorities. Today they are the majority in their homeland thus making them the masters of their own destiny.

However there are those in the media who can't help but fall all over themselves in their haste to publicize anything negative about the Jewish homeland. More than once, I've heard the cynical and taunting question, "Why is that many in the world think ill of Israel and her supporters?" Of course the veiled allegation is that 'they' must have done something wrong to deserve such widespread condemnation. Their rhetorical question is both scornful and derisive. My answer comes dripping with a well deserved generous portion of sarcasm, "Is that the same 'world' whose efforts to prevent the Holocaust were virtually non-existent?"

Israel's detractors are infuriated when their 'holier than thou', posturing is exposed for the hypocrisy it is. Israel rightfully disregards their duplicitous and hollow tirades. The Arabs and Iranians, icons of intolerance and bigotry, outnumber Israel in terms of land mass 650 to 1 and in population 56 to 1. Yet, they are obsessed with eliminating the tiny State of Israel, whose very existence sticks in their collective craws. They, along with their willing minions of like minded anti-Semites, have no grounds upon which to claim the moral high ground, their footing is mired in quicksand.  Consequently, they feel humiliated, disrespected and embarrassed; ironically their plight is a consequence of their own contemptible handiwork.

Arab and Iranian dictators and thugs, rule with the clenched fist and iron sword. All the while they cower behind women and children even as they strap suicide belts on them. For those spineless cretins saving face trumps saving lives. An arsenal of lies, threats, intimidation and terror are their weapons of choice. Rather than devise strategies to reverse the course of their continuous march to failure, they engage in the barbaric tactics of terror. Unfortunately they regale in regression, not progress. They curse rather than bless. They tear down, rather than built up. They embrace suicide and shun revitalization. They envy and despise everything that Israel accomplishes because their own corrupt and stagnant regimes are mired in the muck of their own making, while Israel's remarkable growth and achievements take flight.

Sadly those who would wipe Israel off the map continue to march to the beat of their own orchestrated hateful rhetoric. The seeds they plant yield a harvest of intolerance. Armed with a battery of rockets, which they fill with lies and launch with deceitfulness, they reap what they sow, a legacy of failure and defeat. Cowardly cringing in mosques, schools and spider holes, they claim victory over what they call a decadent America and Israel. Alas, they delude themselves because they are a cowardly lot, therefore respect will elude them. Their only reward will be a key to the executive lounge located in the rear of the cave in which they are hiding. Although that pack of malcontents and unhinged anti-Semites will undoubtedly continue waging their campaign to disparage, dismantle and destroy Israel, their efforts will drown in the wake of their own folly.

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Shabbat Shalom... But Not For Everyone

by: siweni

Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 10:17:26 AM EST

( - promoted by Publisher)

— by Steve Wenick

Friday November 16, 2012 - Erev Shabbat

I just read this posting on Facebook ; it is an honest report - unlike what much of the media reports.

I'm Elinor, I'm 18 years old and I live in Ashdod, Israel. I live in a building with 3 floors and I don't have a shelter in my house, which means I have to go downstairs with all the other neighbors to our building shelter. you can see how the children are in panic, and that there's nothing we can do, we're hopeless. we have only 45 seconds to reach the shelter. You can hear the bombs really good.

Hamas is a terrorist organization just like Al-Qaeda and many others. this organization's goal is to hurt as many innocent citizens as he can.

I can't live a normal life like this. Nobody can.

In response to the above posting a friend of mine Cory Goldstein posted this comment on Facebook.
Exactly. This is Eti Zlotin's world too. Older buildings have no safe rooms so you have to run out to the stairwell. I experienced this firsthand last week. We were woken up at 5:30AM by the siren. Eti immediately got into military mode and started rushing me out of the house. But what does this clueless and sheltered American from Voorhees, NJ do? I began gathering my laptop and cell phone and stuff; meanwhile Eti is yelling that there is no time and we just have to go.

Unfortunately since she lives on the 4th floor of her building we couldn't make it all the way down to the basement so the only place that is "safe" is the stairwell. I was told that the Qassam rockets cannot penetrate more than one or two walls so everybody in the building must gather on the 2nd floor of the stairwell. That was just one time that we heard the siren; it was nothing like what they've been experiencing this week!

How can anybody live like this?

Shabbat Shalom... But Not For Everyone

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"Who Loves Ya Baby?"

by: siweni

Tue Nov 13, 2012 at 17:06:22 PM EST

— by Steve Wenick

You can be sure that over the ensuing weeks, months and years, leading up to the 2016 Presidential Elections, the GOP political pundits and strategist will be agonizing over the root causes of what went so terribly wrong with their presidential campaign. I can save them a lot of time and effort by citing a tag line from a TV show from the early 1970's.

More after the jump.

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by: siweni

Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 23:30:09 PM EST

— Steve Wenick

The election results are in and for the winners the glass is half full and for the losers it is half empty. Fortunately as Americans we are all looking at a glass which remains un-shattered.

More after the jump.

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'It's Over'

by: siweni

Mon Nov 05, 2012 at 10:22:21 AM EST

 - by Steve Wenick

Tomorrow the election will be over but the sniping will go on and on and on.

Whether Obama is reelected or Romney is elected it will result in the losing side predicting that the end of civilization is at hand. Part of the reason for that predictable doomsday reaction can be attributed to the media's persistent mantra which warns in the most foreboding tones, "This is the most important election in American history".

If I were cynical I might suspect that the media's hyperbolic declaration is just another device used to bump up their Nielsen Ratings to gain, more sponsors, a larger share of the market, and thus increase their bottom line. On the other hand consider this: every generation prides itself on its own importance and the impact it has on the future generations and the fate of our country. The hubris of each generation is second to none other.

Soon the cheers of the victors and the moans of the vanquished will fade and in the not too distant future we will hear the drumbeat of the faithful as they embark upon their inexorable march to the 2016 Presidential Election.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

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Jewish Political Party Values

by: siweni

Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 07:33:04 AM EDT

— by Steve Wenick

Which political party mirrors your understanding of the priorities of Jewish values when it comes to responding to the needs of the poor?

At the outset let me make this perfectly clear I do not vote party; I vote for the individual. So it matters not which party reflects my values only the candidates. I recognize that the candidate running under his or her political party's banner will most likely hoist and support the party line. But that is not always the case. There are exceptions when there are exceptional people whether they are running for national, state, county, or city office, all the way down to your local committeeman.

Getting back to the question, "How do we as Jews address the needs of poor Jewish families?" There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people reading this article. Searching through the Jewish responsa, which contain the wisdom of our great teachers, reveals that Maimonides says that lifting the burden off the shoulders of the poor is best done through job training. Other sages say it is by providing food and shelter.

More after the jump.

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An Ethical Dilemma by Steve Wenick

by: siweni

Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 17:24:55 PM EDT

A friend of mine recently told me about an event in his life which I thought was too good not to share with you. This is his story as I remember it.

Years ago, while working at the cash register in my father's grocery store in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, I saved all the two dollar bills handed to me. Over time I managed to collect fourteen of the bills, all of which were printed prior to 1970, which I believed might make them valuable.

My plan was to hoard them until some later date in the hopes that they turn out to be worth much more than two dollars each. I later discovered that they could be worth from three dollars up to several thousand dollars each, depending on where and when they were printed, their serial numbers and if they were from the valuable 'red seal' series. However at the time I received the bills I had no idea of their actual worth but planned to check their value at the library (there was no Internet back then) at some later date.

More after the jump.

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 1091 words in story)

Chanukah on the Caribbean by Steve Wenick

by: siweni

Wed Nov 17, 2010 at 22:37:59 PM EST

Who would have ever thought that a recent article in The New York Times bearing the lackluster title, "Neighbors Challenge Energy Aims in Bolivia" could have caught my attention, but it did. Who, would have ever thought that the remarkable events, on my recent cruise to the Western Caribbean, could have happened, but they did.

Having weighed anchor, our cruise ship, Liberty of the Seas, navigated seaward, leaving the Port of Miami in her wake. The Liberty, the name the crew affectionately called her, had set sail on the second day of Chanukah to the accompaniment of the usual "sail away" party music and frivolity. To my surprise the ship's daily newsletter, "The Cruise Compass", announced that a Chanukah candle lighting service was scheduled to take place at sunset in the ship's dining room. I wondered if anyone, other than my wife Bobbie and I would show up that evening.

As nightfall slowly claimed the sky, I knew it was time for Bobbie and me to join the handful of other Jews in the dining room  to carry out the age old tradition of kindling the Chanukiah. Upon our arrival we were delighted to discover that the cruise line had hired a rabbi to conduct the ceremony. However, disappointment replaced delight when he announced that, for safety reasons, an open flame was not permitted on the ship. Therefore, instead of the kindling the customarily used candles, an electric Chanukiah would be lit. Fortunately our disappointment was short lived when he also informed us that, following services, potato latkes (pancakes), sufganyote (jelly donuts) and wine would be served in celebration of the Festival of Lights.

So a dozen or more of us put our hedonistic pursuits temporarily on hold, and assembled in the dining room at the appointed time. As we prepared to light the Chanukiah, to our astonishment, one of the head waiters joined us sporting a tuxedo and a knit kippah. Pinned to his jacket's lapel was an engraved name plate bearing his name, Jacob. What we were about to discover was that, not only was he an Israeli, and a Torah scholar, but that he was fluent in seven languages. We were also taken aback when he disclosed that prior to his becoming a head waiter he had been a yeshivah student for 18 years and a member of the Israel Defense Forces.

Jacob exuded the aura of a born leader and because of his magnetic personality, enough men had gathered around him to make a minyan. He promptly donned the mantle of the Shaliach Tzibur (prayer leader) and because he lead the service in the Sephardic tradition, I was not surprised to learn that he had been born and raised in Morocco before making aliya. At the conclusion of the service, Jacob taught a gamatria lesson in Hebrew. I was able to grasp enough of the Hebrew to hang onto the essence of the lesson, but not enough to grapple with its finer points. At the time, I could not help but recall the cliché, "In life there are times when the destination is less meaningful than the journey". My gut told me that this journey was to be one of those times.

On each successive evening of Chanukah an additional electric bulb was lit and with the addition of each new bulb came a revelation. One evening a ship's officer came to kindle the Chanukiah and to my astonishment, not only was he an Israeli, he was the head of the ship's security, as well. As the number of bulbs increased each evening, so did the number of celebrants, reaching well over a hundred participants. At the conclusion of one of the bulb lighting ceremonies a young woman volunteered to lead us in a medley of Chanukah songs. Those of us who knew the lyrics joined her in singing; the rest silently mouthed the words.
I marveled at how such a diverse group of individuals, originating from all over the globe, could bond so seamlessly in song and ritual. Bound together by millennia of shared traditions, our regional differences did not weaken our bond. The coming together of Jews from Brazil, Canada, Israel, Russia, Morocco, Portugal and the United States symbolized for me the "Kibbutz Galyut", an in gathering of the dispersed, at least in spirit. As the evening celebration drew to a close, Jacob motioned for me to step aside and said that he heard that Bobbie and I observe the Laws of Kashrut. I nodded my head in the affirmative. Whereupon he suggested that we might want to change our dinner table to one in his area so that he could tell us which foods were acceptable. I agreed, so with our cruising friends, Jackie and Allen, we changed tables as Jacob suggested.
Already seated at our newly assigned table was a beautiful family of five from Bolivia. I found out later that the family owned thousands of acres of soy beans which they were processing and converting to methane gas to be used as fuel (therein lies my previous reference to Bolivian energy concerns). There was Carlos the father, his son Roberto, and his three daughters Esther, Nicole and Katya. I wondered how we were going to communicate with them since none of the four of us spoke Spanish. As it turned out they spoke enough English for us to understand them. After the customary polite introductions, we learned that our table mates had joined their father on this cruise to celebrate his special birthday. Carlos had invited only his children to join him, no grandchildren, and no spouses. I thought that was rather interesting, but courtesy trumped curiosity, and if there was story there, it was destined to remain untold.

One evening, I almost choked on my dinner, when our head waiter Jacob came to our table and began singing two songs, "Oseh Shalom" followed by  "Chaverim Kol Yisroel". As if prearranged, Jackie, Allen, Bobbie and I joined him in somewhat imperfect harmony. The family of five sitting at our table, who were Catholic, sat mute and visibly dumbfounded. I felt obligated to offer them an explanation, so I told them that we were singing songs of peace and friendship in Hebrew. Had it not been for the occasional clatter of silverware and plates from the table behind us, one could have heard the proverbial pin drop, even on the carpeted floor. The youngest daughter, Katya, broke the silence when she asked if we were Jewish, to which the four of us nodded in the affirmative.

The ensuing hiatus in our conversation allowed our food server, Marvius, to jump in and proudly announced that the dinner specials consisted of fried shrimp and grilled lobster tails. Jackee, Allen, Bobbie and I declined the specials, explaining that we do not eat shellfish. Later, as dinner was drawing to a close, Katya asked why we do not eat shellfish. Rather than plunging into a lengthy explanation, I simply said that many of our faith believe that G-d does not want Jews to eat shellfish. Then I made the mistake of telling her that if she wanted a more in depth answer she should ask Jacob, and so she did. Jacob enthusiastically responded to her question with a fifteen minute discourse on the subject of Kashrut, before being interrupted by the arrival of dessert.

The last day of Chanukah fell on a Shabbat so at sundown we bid farewell to both the Festival of Lights and Shabbat with prayers and songs. And as the setting sun clung to the horizon, as if to prolong our final farewell, we knew that this voyage had changed us in some inexplicable ways. As we docked, in the Port of Miami, early Sunday morning, I glanced back and saw what remained of the ship's wake which had followed us home. The cruise had ended, but the memories of our unusual Chanukah on the Caribbean, will stay with us always.

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