Tag Archives: #Jewish

Measure for Measure: What Goes Around Comes Around?

President Trump greets supporters during a drive by outside of Walter Reed Hospital October 4, 2020.

Hindus and Buddhists call it Karma. Germans call it Schadenfreude. But do Jews have an expression to express fate or to express pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune? The closest corresponding phrase is “midah k’neged midah,” —“measure for measure.” One’s actions and they way they affect the world will eventually come to that person in ways one might not necessarily expect.

In a 2017 dracha, Rabbi David Wolfe described two Biblical passages from Bereishit (Genesis) that demonstrate this concept. In the first passage, Jacob takes advantage of his father’s age and blindness to fool Issac into believing hat he is his older twin Esau. As a result, he receives his older brother’s birthright/blessing.

Years later, Jacob falls deeply in love with Rachel. Agreeing to work for seven years for her father Laban, Jacob finally joins his bride under the chuppa. When he wakes up from the wedding night, however, Jacob realizes that under that heavy veil was Leah, the older and less desirable of the sisters. Rabbi Wolfe then calls on a midrash to explain the aftermath. Understandably, Jacob is very upset and demands to know why Leah tricked him. Leah ’s response: “You fooled your father into thinking you were your brother; I fooled you into thinking I was my sister.” In other words, what goes around comes around. 

Just past midnight, on Friday, October 2, President Donald Trump tweeted that he and the First Lady had tested positive for COVID-19.The president’s diagnosis came after he spent months playing down the severity of the outbreak that has killed more than 215,000 in the United States and hours after insisting that “the end of the pandemic is in sight.” He has downplayed the virus again and again. More egregiously, this cavalier attitude has been passed on to his supporters. Republican leaders have incorporated this non-scientific approach into their politics, resulting in dismissing the need for masks and social distancing; opening up cities and states way before it was deemed safe by experts to do so; and touting the “success” of such operations that in truth do not exist.

After initially experiencing some of my own Schadenfreude, my Yom Kippur prayers of repentance kicked in. I sought out the high ground, which I saw in the Book of Proverbs: “If your enemy falls, do not exult; if he trips, let your heart not rejoice” So summoning up my best self, I hope that the president has a “Refuah Shleimah,” a complete recovery. I hope even more that this experience changes how he views COVID-19 and its impact on those not able to take a one mile plane ride to the country’s top hospital after experiencing “mild symptoms.”

My husband Larry and I have seen our lives upended, as have our extended family and our friends. Aborted trips. In person visits replaced with FaceTime calls. Cancelled bar mitzvahs, graduation parties, weddings, Zoom funerals. Limited visits with relatives in nursing homes.

But what we have experienced is nothing compared to the physical, emotional, and financial impact it has on others. On March 31, 2020, my friend Kathy, who had returned from a cruise “under the weather,” sent out a FaceBook post that she was being admitted to the hospital for what she believed was bronchitis. Within two days, she was hooked up to a ventilator. Her brother Bryan kept us informed daily on social media, describing Kathy’s ordeal in ICU in which she almost died several times. When she was finally breathing on her own, she spent several more weeks in rehab. She returned home two weeks ago, only to be rushed back to the hospital for more surgery related to complications of COVID.. As I said, I hope for the president’s recovery, but I wish he could experience just a fraction of what Kathy has been through.

Kathy has survived, but at least seven people in our community have succumbed. In the Orlando, Florida, area, thousands have lost jobs as Disney and other theme parks, Central Florida’s main employer, have seen low attendance. The ripple effect has closed many of our area’s restaurants and other businesses. 

So, I know I join many Americans who hope that the Rose Garden Debacle, which lead to innumerable cases of this fast-spreading disease, will result in policy changes from President Trump and his supporters. Will the federal government finally organize a national response? Will masks and social distancing be mandatory everywhere, even when the president and like-minded Republicans are in attendance? Will first responders be finally given all needed supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) and enough tests? And will all leaders take a harder look at returning to Phase 1 protocols?

Or maybe I am just dreaming. On Sunday, October 4, I watched in disbelief as news stations covered the president’s commandeering a motorcade to greet his supporters outside of Walter Reed Hospital. Let us put this ten minute joy ride into perspective. Because of COVID, millions of us cannot see people we love. Because of COVID, thousands have had to lie in hospital beds with no contact with relatives. Because of COVID, many have DIED alone. But the president thought nothing of spending thousands of our tax payer dollars to get the adulation he cravenly requires. And he thought nothing of the danger he put his secret service staff (who were subsequently  put in quarantine) and others to pull off this publicity stunt.To use the words of a popular meme on the Internet: I don’t wish this virus on anyone. I hope the president has a speedy recovery.And I hope he gets demolished at the ballot box. That will be for me “midah k’neged midah,” the most satisfying measure for measure.

First published in The Jewish World, October 8, 2020.

Source

https://www.sinaitemple.org/worship/sermons/toldot-training-hands-esau-voice-jacob/s

Why I am not voting for Donald Trump

Marilyn Cohen Shapiro reciting Kiddish at Congregation Shalom Aleichem, Kissimmee, Florida

This article is in response to “Donald Trump: Social Justice President” (Rabbi Sanford Olshansky, Heritage Florida Jewish News, Aug. 28, 2020). 

The High Holy Days will be very different this year for all of us.

Rather than meeting fellow congregants in our synagogues, we will be Zooming. As the first day falls on Shabbos, Reform Jews will have to wait until the closing moments of Yom Kippur to hear the sound of the shofar over the Internet. Holiday meals will be lonely affairs as most families are practicing social distancing. Fasting on the holiest day of the year will be made even more difficult when people are not sharing the experience with others.

It did not have to be this bad. Other countries are opening up. Because of this administration’s failure to address the COVID-19 pandemic and — worst yet — its attempt to call it a “hoax,” the United States has over 6 million confirmed cases and over 189,000 deaths as of Sept. 4, with an upsurge expected this fall. Employment is at 8.4 percent overall (compared to 4.7 percent under Obama) but much higher among Blacks (13.0 percent), and Hispanics (10.5 percent). Both small businesses and large corporations are facing closures or uncertain futures. 

The president and his followers have made a health issue a political issue. The country has been torn apart on the issue of wearing a piece of cloth. “The dispute over masks embodies the political dynamics of the campaign,” writes Tara McKelvey in a BBC news article. “It also reflects a classic American struggle between those who defend public safety and those who believe just as deeply in personal liberty.” Meanwhile, all respectable medical personnel view masks as our first defense against the virus.

For those fortunate enough not to have suffered devastating health or economic effects, the impact of the pandemic still has been emotionally difficult. Parents of children fear sending their children to school. Nursing home residents cannot see their families. Grandparents cannot see their grandchildren. Six months into the pandemic, people are feeling lonely, isolated, depressed. 

Meanwhile, since George Floyd’s murder, the United States has come face to face with its long history of systematic racism, and the president has only fueled the flames. His comments and policies have impacted Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, Dreamers, Africans (“shit-hole countries”), Asians (“kung fu” flu), and Jews. Even the disabled — including those who suffered physical or emotional injuries as a result of their military service (“losers” and “suckers”) — have been the target of the president’s disrespect and scorn. 

Jews and non-Jews alike have questioned why I don’t support Trump as he is “good for the Jews.” His history of anti-Semitic comments prove clearly to me that he is not. In 2017, the president stated soon after the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that there was “good on both sides.” His inability to denounce neo-Nazis demonstrates to me that the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust mean nothing to him. Later that year, after the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, Trump’s initial reaction was to criticize the synagogue. “If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple … maybe it could have been a very much different situation.” In August 2019, he accused American Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. In December 2019, speaking at the Israeli American Council referred the dual loyalty cliché, and then went on to call Jews involved in real estate “ brutal killers, not nice people at all.” As recently as last week, Mary Ann Mendoza, a Trump supporter was pulled from the RNC line up after protests of her promotion of anti-Semitic and QAnon conspiracy theories on her Twitter Feed. 

The president is the antithesis to every moral tenet of Judaism. He is a bully, a liar, a cheat, a womanizer, and a self-absorbed, unempathetic narcissist who has no respect for anyone who does not fawn over him — unless they are despots. 

His June 1, 2020, photo in front of what is considered the “Church of Presidents” is one the most egregious example. In the middle of peaceful protests, law enforcement officers used tear gas and other riot control tactics to forcefully clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square and surrounding streets, creating a path for the president and senior administration officials to walk from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Reverend Gini Gerbasi, the rector, had helped organize more than twenty priests and lay volunteers to provide water, food, and hand sanitizer as a “peaceful presence in support of protesters.” As they were packing up before the 7 p.m. curfew, armed riot police carrying riot shields entered the churchyard, forcing everyone to evacuate. Minutes later, the president and his entourage entered the square. Brandishing an upside-down, back-facing Bible, Trump posed for photographers for what he perceived was his “law and order” demeanor.

The publicity-stunt-gone wrong met with overwhelming condemnation. Rev. Gerbasi’s comments reported in the Washington Post were especially hard hitting. “People were protesting the fact that their government had been enslaving, incarcerating, overlooking and brutalizing them for generations — and the government brutalized them again,” she stated in a Washington Post article. “Religious people, who were literally wiping away the protesters’ tears, were driven off the church property with brute force and fear. All so that Trump could use the church as a backdrop and wave the Bible like a prop. It was beyond offensive. It was sacrilege.”

“We need our President, and all who hold office, to be moral leaders who help us to be a people and nation living these values,” stated Bishop Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. “For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be ‘one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.’” Donald J. Trump is not that president. The only path for our country and democracy is for the overwhelming numbers of Americans to recognize this failure and vote for Joe Biden on Nov. 3. Then, and only then, can all of us sound the Shofar in the future with peace, joy and hope.

Marilyn Shapiro lives in Kissimmee, Fla. This article was first published in the (Orlando) Heritage Florida Jewish News on September 18, 2020

Being Born: The World, The Jewish World, and me!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to The Jewish World! And Happy Birthday to the World!

It was Labor Day—how fitting!  On Sept. 3, 1950, as my mother’s doctor had a noon golf date, Frances Cohen accommodated his schedule by delivering me a little after 9 a.m.

The Jewish World came along 15 years later. Inspired by Jewish community leaders with the idea that a newspaper would strengthen the community, Sam Clevenson published its first issue for Rosh Hashanah 5716 on Sept. 23, 1965. He believed it would help unify the Jewish communities of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and the surrounding area. After his passing in 2008, his children, Laurie and Jim, took the helm, packing the paper with more local news, adding a dynamic web site and weekly e-newsletter to expand the readership.

What’s in the ‘World’
The bi-weekly covers local religious events and a wide range of local, national, and international news that impacts and strengthens our Jewish community. It is also a valuable source for happenings in the world of art and culture. Over the years, I have clipped recipes, jotted down the names of books and movies, and have learned much about the world through a Jewish lens.

The recent rise of Jew-hating has made our local newspaper even more important. “For 54 years The Jewish Worldhas monitored perils to your existence,” Jim Clevenson recently said. “We finger the foes of freedom, the nemeses of peace, while celebrating the successes of our crusaders for justice, black and white, Jewish and Gentile.”

‘There goes my heart’
While my husband, Larry, and I had been longtime subscribers and readers, my personal connection to The Jewish World began in 2013. While covering the Capital District Hadassah’s special events banquet, I visited the office in Schenectady to speak to Jim Clevenson. In my pre-retirement life, I had worked in public relations as both a volunteer and as part of my job at the Capital District Educational Opportunity Center, a division of Hudson Valley Community College. Jim asked if I would be interested in writing news articles for the paper. I countered with an offer to write personal columns based on my many years as an upstate resident. My first article, “There Goes My Heart,” was published Aug. 15, 2013. Laurie and Jim (and readers) must have liked it. Over the past seven years, I have published 148 articles in Sam Clevenson’s brainchild.

Since Larry and I moved to Florida in 2015, I have expanded my horizons by becoming a regular contributor to the Heritage Florida Jewish News. My articles have been posted on numerous websites, the Jewish War Museum, Growing Bolder cancer survivors website, the US Pickleball Association, and most recently the Australian-based Jewish Women of Words (I have gone international!) I have compilations in two books, There Goes My Heart (2016) and Tikkun Olam: Stories of Repairing an Unkind World (2018). Two books are in the queue: Keep Calm and Bake Challah, a third collection of essaysand Fredyl’s Stories, family stories that I co-wrote with my mother, Frances Cohen (Of Blessed Memory). My blog, theregoesmyheart.me, presents my stories as well as articles about my writing adventures.

My articles, books, and blog would not have been possible without the help and support of Laurie and Jim Clevenson. They have provided the space in the paper plus advice and guidance.

The lonely ‘Zoom’
This month, The Jewish World and I also share our birthdays with the world. Rosh Hashanah 5781 begins on Friday, Sept. 18. Of course, the High Holy Days will be very different this year for most of us. Rather than meeting fellow congregants in our synagogues, we will be “Zooming.” As the first day falls on Shabbos, Reform Jews will have to wait until the closing moments of Yom Kippur to hear the sound of the shofar over the Internet. Holiday meals will be lonely as most families are practicing social distancing. Fasting on the holiest day of the year will be made even more difficult when we are not sharing the experience.

But I will still celebrate. I will bake round challahs, roll matzoh balls and drop them in simmering chicken soup, and cook up my traditional chicken, roasted potatoes, and candied carrots. Larry and I will do a brachah over the wine asking for a sweet, better year ahead. After we have finished our Zoom service, I will pull out the most recent Jewish World and catch up on what is happening from the only local paper that focuses on Jewish news—what you need to know.

It’s not just the virus
Before Corona-19 we were already a polarized nation crazed with resentment of blacks, Jews, and foreigners. Now we’ve heard echoes of ‘The Jews have poisoned the wells’! The Jewish World promotes Jewish life and culture, and stands for Jewish traditions of rationality and love. We believe good people must stand together to encourage and facilitate light. This is our mission and duty as Jews.

What you can do
To celebrate The Jewish World’s 55th birthday, I ask you to support the paper you are holding in your hands or reading on-line. Renew your subscription. The Clevensons shared with me that a new office staffer is managing the database, and non-payers may find their mailboxes a little emptier on every other Friday.

Give subscription gift certificates to your kids and friends! To carry on the Clevenson legacy call Cynthia Traynahan in the office, (518) 344-7018. She knows all the special discounts.

With Corona-19 disrupting most businesses, The Jewish World needs extra help: visit GoFundMe at gf.me/u/xunxx5.

I also request that you keep in touch with me! I love to hear from readers. E-mail me at shapcomp18@gmail.com , via my Facebook page at Marilyn Cohen Shapiro, Writer, or on Twitter at @shapiro_marilyn. Thank you!

The Jewish World, September 15, 2020