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Palestinians — Learn from Us

by Alan Bergstein

To the Palestinians:

I am a Jew who asks but a few minutes of your time to consider the following differences between Jews and Muslims. Learn from us.

Jews do not hate Muslims. They do not call for the death of Muslims nor do they pray to their G-d to destroy Islamic nations, their leaders or their people. Jews do not slip into Muslim homes to slit the throats of innocent men, women and children and then name streets, plazas and schools in honor of these terrorists. A Jew, Dr. Baruch Goldstein who slew 29 Muslims back in 1994, in an act of terror was defamed and dishonored by Israel, its leaders and Jews around the world. Terror is not our game. Learn from us.

Jews do not enter countries as immigrants and then try to transform their host nations into Jewish states. Jews blossom in every land where they are permitted to live in peace and in every such instance bring prosperity to their new found lands. Learn from us.

Jews have only one Jewish nation in this world, Israel, in which their Muslim, Christian and Jewish citizens all have complete religious freedom and there is no distinction among them as to rights and privileges. Jews have suffered in Muslim lands for hundreds of years and have been treated as second class citizens…when they are permitted to live. Israel offers more security, freedom and opportunities to enjoy life to its Muslim residences than does any Muslim nation on earth. Learn from us.

Jewish parents raise their kids to succeed and benefit the modern world in which they are happy to live. Education and security are the foremost in the minds of Jewish mothers and fathers for their kids. They sacrifice to enable their children to enjoy life and enrich the lives of others. They do not train them to hate others, to kill others and to commit terrorist-style suicide to appears their G-d. Jewish parents relish, love and adore their children. Learn from us.

Jews do not want to kill Palestinians in Gaza. Israel drops warning letters and makes phone calls to you before it attacks military installations placed in your schools, hospitals and mosques as humanitarian gestures. Jewish doctors treat Muslims, even terrorists in Israel’s hospitals. Jews are a humane people. Jews do not wantonly bomb your homes nor do we offer after life rewards to our people who are killed in battle. We love our young men and women who are taken from their families, schools and professions to defend their citizens from your religious terror. Learn from us.

Jews love peace and abhor war. Jews want to live in peace with all its neighbors. Jews want to reach out and assist its neighbors but only when your religion and its people decide to live in peace with us. Learn from us.

[Reprinted from Jewish Journal, Palm Beach South, August 6, 2014.]

Welcome to My Blog!

This blog has one primary purpose – to help stop and hopefully reverse the attrition of Jews from the American Jewish community. Many others are trying to do this too; some are trying to make Jewish prayer services more interesting and others are focused on improving Jewish education.

Those are laudable efforts that I agree with. However, those efforts only reach those who are actively in the Jewish community at the present time. So many of our numbers are not in the Jewish community, never go to prayer services and never attend Jewish educational classes. In other words, current efforts are like preaching to the choir and not connecting at all to everyone else.

So how do we reach them?

My hope is to reach them through the books I am and will be writing. Perhaps this blog/website will also help. I hope so. I start from one basic assumption: If you have a product and it is not selling, you either have to change the buyers or you have to change the product. Read more »

Judaism Has Changed Before — Part 1

Many people think that Judaism has been the same since it began more than 5,000 years ago and, therefore, it should not change now. They are very wrong. Let me give some examples:

Judaism began as a family religion, starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Joseph was in Egypt, his brothers came to live there because there was a famine where they were living. They stayed in Egypt 400 years, going from invited guests to total slavery. When Moses led them out of Egypt, they had become separate tribes, descending primarily from the 12 sons of Jacob and Joseph. During their wanderings in the desert, and then the settling of the Promised Land, it was clear there was as much loyalty, or more, to their tribes than to the nation as a whole. So Judaism had gone from a family religion to a tribal religion. Read more »

Judaism Has Changed Before — Part 2

A big change happened to the Israelites when they went from a society run by wise men (known as Judges, like Deborah and Samuel) to a society with a King. They wanted to be like the other nations of the world and the people asked Samuel to appoint them a King. The first King was King Saul. He was killed in battle, and the next two Kings were more famous, King David and his son King Solomon. King David was a warrior who united the country like no one had before. You might compare his role as similar to the United States adopting the Constitution and becoming one country.

A huge change came when King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Temple was considered the home of God. It was very sacred and only Priests were allowed into it. Everyone else stood on the outside and watched. Read more »

Judaism Has Changed Before — Part 3

After being marched into exile in Babylonia, the Judaeans (we can call them Jews now) were deprived of the Holy Temple and their King. But unlike the people of the Kingdom of Israel, the Jews in Babylon did not become Lost. What they did was two things. They resumed local sacrificing like they had before the Holy Temple was built, and they began to write the Talmud.

The Talmud was created by putting the oral law into written form for the first time (it had been passed on orally from generation to generation since the time of Moses), so it wouldn’t be lost. And the wisest and most learned of their people began to meet in groups to discuss and analyze and interpret the Torah in combination with the oral law. Their discussions were recorded, and that is what became the Talmud of today. The people continued to lead a Jewish life, and that is what saved them. Read more »

Judaism Has Changed Before — Part 4

When Napoleon conquered most of Europe in the early 1800′s, he freed the Jews from many forms of discrimination and in some countries like France, England, and Germany, Jews were allowed to participate in general society.

In Germany, the Reform Movement was started, in protest against the strict orthodoxy of traditional Judaism. The Reform Movement allowed Jews to continue to be Jewish while they integrated (and in many cases assimilated) into general society. The rebellion against traditional Orthodox Judaism was so great that some Reform synagogues didn’t allow the wearing of yarmulkas or tallises, they drove on the Sabbath, didn’t keep kosher, and they used organ music to supplement their prayer services. Read more »

Judaism Needs to Change Again

Quoting from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in the first paragraph of his famous book God in Search of Man:

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion—its message becomes meaningless.”

For most Jews, that is the state of Judaism today, and we have to find a way to make it relevant and meaningful to us or consign Judaism to the province of the Orthodox, whose effect on society will become more like the Amish than anything else.