San Diego Jewish World
Volume 2, Number 30
Volume 2, Number 62
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


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Today's Postings

Cynthia Citron in Los Angeles: Old Times explores vagaries of memory

Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: Jews have impacted the life of Republican presidential candidate John McCain

Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: Immigrants who don't respect host culture threaten national identty

The Week in Review
This week's stories from San Diego Jewish World







Jews have impacted the life of Republican presidential candidate John McCain

By Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—A review of four books coauthored by Republican presidential candidate John McCain with his chief of staff Mark Salter reveals that two Jews in particular have had a profound influence on his thinking in the years following his release in 1973 as a prisoner of war from a North Vietnamese prison. The writings of Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl are a source of great comfort to him. The record of female commando Hannah Senesh, who preferred execution by the Nazis over asking for clemency, perplexes and anguishes him.

What McCain has written about Frankl and Senesh should be considered in light of the fact that during his more than five years imprisonment, McCain was frequently beaten and subjected to other forms of torture. When he reached his breaking point, he "confessed" that as a U.S. Naval aviator who bombed North Vietnam he was an "air pirate" and a "black criminal." That confession has shamed and haunted him ever since. On the other hand, as the grandson and son of two four-star admirals whose names he bears, John S. McCain III refused special treatment from the North Vietnamese, spurning their offer to release him ahead of other POWs.

In McCain's 1999 book, Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir, he approvingly quoted psychiatrist Frankl, author of the landmark Man's Search for Meaning, as counseling that "everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

McCain then added: "I have spent much of my life choosing my own attitude, often carelessly, often for no better reason than to indulge a conceit. In those instances, my acts of self-determination were mistakes, some of which did no lasting harm, and serve only to embarrass and occasionally amuse, the old man who recalls them. Others I deeply regret. At other times, I chose my own way with good cause and to good effect. I did not do so to apologize for my mistakes. My contrition is a separate matter. When I chose well I did so to keep a balance in my life—a balance between pride and regret, between liberty and honor..."

McCain wrote about Frankl again in his 2005 book Character Is Destiny, to which he gave the subtitle "Inspiring Stories Every Young Person Should Know and Every Adult Should Remember."

Recounting Frankl's experiences at Auschwitz, McCain wrote: "Though he lived at the whim of his tormenters, his fate was still his to determine. To live or to die, that was largely beyond his control... Your whole life could be at the mercy of another. You could be reduced to an utterly powerless, degraded, dirty, pitiful physical presence, but one freedom, one choice remained to you, the decision to be good or bad..."

Tellingly, McCain then wrote: "I have not suffered as he suffered. But I lost my liberty for a time, and, in one instance, when I was forced to do something I thought dishonored me and my family, I feared I had lost everything of value to me, and that my life had lost its purpose. Then, by the example of other, better men, I realized that I still had a choice. I could choose to accept my misfortune and make it count for something. I could choose to acknowledge my weaknesses, and to try again to transcend them, and reclaim my dignity. Nothing in my life, before or after, has ever had more meaning, and I count myself privileged for the experience."

McCain wrote extensively about Senesh in the 2004 book, Why Courage Matters, which he subtitled "The Way to a Braver Life." Senesh, a poet and a fighter, was a Hungarian Jew who emigrated to Palestine, then joined the British military to fight the Nazis. She parachuted behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia, and later crossed the border into Hungary, where she was captured while attempting to encourage the resistance. A court answerable to Nazi Adolf Eichmann put her on trial even as Russian troops were nearing Budapest. McCain recounts that after Senesh's conviction, Captain Simon, the Nazi judge, asked if she wished to appeal for clemency. "Clemency--from you? Do you think I'm going to plead with hangmen and murderers? I shall never ask for mercy." An hour later she was executed.

McCain weighs with bewilderment Senesh's decision: "It seems she had a chance to survive had she responded affirmatively to Simon's invitation of clemency. Had she done so, neither her mission nor the people she had come to rescue would have been any the worse for it. She was not asked, at least not in advance of requesting clemency, to betray a confidence or inform on her comrades. Did she really need to accept martyrdom for her cause? Perhaps Simon would have asked her for something in return had she said yes. Perhaps he would have had her shot anyway. But did she believe that before she spurned his offer so defiantly? That is not clear."

Those familiar with McCain's biography realize the next passage of the book involves his own soul-searching. "...(W)ho among us fantasizes he is capable of dying for a principle alone that doesn't immediately concern the welfare of others, but involves only his sense of honor as it affects his self-esteem? In such an extreme situation, wouldn't any of us risk surrendering a little of our dignity in the not unreasonable hope that the injury could be repaired after we had survived our current predicament? We might feel disgraced somewhat but couldn't we recover from that by continuing to live honorably? What kind of courage is it that rejects such reasoning?..."

McCain quotes but clearly cannot incorporate into his own belief system Senesh's prayer poem:
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame./ Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart./ Blessed is the heart with strength to stop in beating for honor's sake./ Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

* *
In his books, McCain mentions a few other Jews who touched upon his life, or those of family members, and also lauds the late U.S. Sen. Henry Jackson (Democrat-Washington). He pays particular attention to the esteem in which a large percentage of the Jewish world held Jackson for his work in behalf of free emigration from the Soviet Union for Jews.

Readers learn in Faith of My Fathers that McCain's father, who had served as commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, had a tempestuous relationship with Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine program. Almost all people agree that Rickover had a haughty and brittle personality; he was a man who did not suffer fools or underlings lightly Rickover's attitude, coupled with his Jewish religion, aroused quite a bit of hatred for him in the Navy. Generally McCain's father stood up for Rickover. However, when Rickover criticized the education midshipmen receive at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, McCain's father took public issue with him. However, when both men were near the end of their lives, they were hospitalized at Bethesda Naval Hospital. There, the two developed a routine of spending time together every day, talking about the love they shared in common: the U.S. Navy.

Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State while McCain was a prisoner of war, and perceptively declined an offer from the North Vietnamese to free McCain ahead of other prisoners. The accepted rule for such things is that prisoners are released in the order they were captured, and had McCain been released out of turn, it would have stirred up considerable resentment against him among his brothers in arms. After all the prisoners were returned, Kissinger told McCain how he had turned down the North Vietnamese offer. McCain thanked Kissinger for saving his honor. For just such a reason, McCain also had turned down an offer of preferential treatment from his captors.

Worth The Fighting For: A Memoir, published in 2002, told of McCain's experiences as a naval liaison to the U.S. Senate, and his subsequent service in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate. While a naval liaison in 1979, he escorted a large congressional delegation headed by Scoop Jackson on a 10-day trip to Israel.

"Scoop is considered a hero," McCain recounted. "I had no idea how great a hero until we landed at Tel Aviv. When we arrived we were transferred to a bus big enough to accommodate our large delegation, as well as the U.S. ambassador in Israel and several of his staff. About a hundred yards outside the airport, the bus was surrounded by a crowd of seven or eight hundred Israelis screaming for Jackson, waving signs that read God Bless you, Scoop; Senator Jackson, Thank you, and dozens of other tributes. They were ecstatic over Scoop's arrival. There were many other strong supporters of Israel on the trip, including Senator Jake Javits, but the crowd was there for Scoop. They mobbed us, slowing the bus's progress to a crawl. Scoop and Helen loved every minute of it, genuinely moved by the outpouring of affection. For a patriot like Scoop, their affection for him was nothing less than affection for America..."

After McCain became a U.S. senator in his own right, he commenced an unlikely alliance with Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. "He and I disagree about a great many things," wrote the Republican senator from Arizona. "We are miles apart on defense, foreign policy and free trade questions. Our temperaments are as different as our ideologies. He is polite, patient, self-effacing, studious, lawyerly and self-controlled, adjectives rarely applied to me...."

The two joined their names as proposers of a bill that became a synonym for political reform: McCain-Feingold. Had the first version been enacted, not only would there have been mandatory limits placed on contributions to political campaigns, but candidates could have agreed to limit their spending in return for free television advertising, reduced postage costs and other benefits. After that measure failed to win passage, McCain and Feingold thought they could round up enough votes to ban "soft money," that is, money spent by organizations in a candidate's behalf but not under his control. That too failed.

Feingold won McCain's admiration when, in the midst of a tough election, he ordered the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, labor unions and other groups to stop spending advertising dollars to trash his opponent in the race—a brave stand, but in the view of many, foolhardy. Said McCain: "He had risked his own election for his beliefs and by so doing had made the cause he championed a central feature of the campaign. I have seldom admired a colleague more." McCain described himself as "probably the most relieved person in the country..."when Feingold, the Democrat, beat his Republican opponent,

Harrison is editor and publisher of San Diego Jewish World



Immigrants who don't respect host
culture threaten national identity

By Sheila Orysiek

SAN DIEGO—Lloyd Levy's article in the March 11 edition of San Diego Jewish World, was of great interest - it is a subject with which I have been deeply concerned.  Jewish history in the Diaspora has been one of oscillating between the Christian world and the Moslem world - when we were at risk in one, we flowed to the other.  This is no longer possible.  Our future, whether in the Diaspora or in Israel is tied to the Christian world. 

I felt way back when Britain declared open immigration from the Commonwealth Nations that it had signed its death warrant as a distinct people and culture.  Though England has had great influence it is actually small in numbers.  This unchecked immigration from other cultures is overwhelming the indigenous culture of the island.  Even if the alien culture is benign - it is still alien to Britain.

As wonderful as representative government is - especially in this case where the Moslem immigrants refuse to assimilate but rather demand accommodation, it works against the host country as the immigrants gain voting rights.  They will vote to overlay their foreign culture on the fabric of the nation and change it.  This is exacerbated by false concepts of political correctness which the foreign culture exploits.  It robs the indigenous population of the ability to defend its own concept of itself.  Added to this is the much larger rate of procreation of the Moslem family.   Native Europeans are not replacing themselves - they are at zero or negative growth.  Thus, they need these immigrants - alien as they are - to prop up the socialist welfare state that Europe has become.

As Jews when we immigrated to America we wanted to keep our distinct way of life - but we didn’t seek to alter the country around us.  If we wanted to observe the Sabbath - we did so by choosing where we worked and lived - not by demanding the larger community change for us.

The Moslem immigrants have other advantages - they are fueled by religious fervor which usually trumps all other reasons to prevail.  People are willing to die for religion.  But while eastern fervor has grown - western religious affiliation has receded.  They are also fueled by enormous wealth which enables them to transfer their home grown culture to the host country without the need to assimilate. 

As for this coming to the United States - it’s already here.  Only because we are larger than Europe does it seem more muted - but the future will change that. Saudi Arabia has built over 17,000 "cultural centers" in the United States.  In Hamtramck, Michigan the Moslem call to prayer is broadcast on loudspeakers in the city.  There are demands for foot baths for Moslem prayer.  Little girls in public schools are veiled.  Prayer rooms are being supplied.

If nothing else, they will win by attrition.  A few thousand dollars brought down the World Trade Center - while we spend billions - even just in Afghanistan - in retaliation.  The price differential between training a US soldier and a terrorist in a camp in Pakistan or a bomb belt versus a cruise missile, must be huge. 

Should we prevail in Afghanistan - it will only be a superfluous win.  No one has ever “won” in Afghanistan.  In order to do so, we would have to overwhelm it and stay there far into the future with martial law.  As soon as we leave, it will revert to its natural culture.  We tend to think in years, Islam sees a much larger picture. 

Islam has threatened Europe’s borders for millennia - this is not a new phenomena.  In the past the Christian nations have defended themselves to one degree or another.  At that time, a battle such as the Battle of Lepanto which kept Islam at bay - could be affected by a single episode.  Now the onslaught is global.   If one looks back historically the outlook is dim.  At one time Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, the Balkans, and more, all had significant Christian populations.  Today, these countries are Moslem.  In Africa Christians are being killed.  The Christian population of the West Bank and Gaza is likewise being killed and harassed.  South and Central America are being infiltrated. History is flowing against the West.

If only one percent of the Moslem population is radical - out of a population of one billion - that leaves ten million radicals.  They have labeled us their enemy - while we on the other hand are unable to label our enemy - our political correctness forbids it.  We are afraid to lose our soul - our carefully built system of human rights - to fight this enemy.  We are right to fear losing this - we spent a thousand years building it.  But this war is not about rights - it’s about survival.  And those among us who cry this warning are denigrated as hate mongers, racists and warmongers.  Churchill, too, was labeled. 

As Jews we are so small in numbers we will have little impact on the outcome.  But this time if Christianity will not defend itself - we have no where to go.

Orysiek is a freelance writer based in San Diego


Old Times explores vagaries of memory

By Cynthia Citron

HOLLYWOOD—In my view, Harold Pinter is to theater as Salvador Dali is to art.  Both are merchants of memory.  It is not by chance that Dali’s most famous work, the melting pocket watches dripping off a table and draped on the branches of a barren tree, is called The Persistence of Memory.  Similarly, Pinter’s works (some 29 plays, reams of poems, screenplays, speeches, et al) are fixated on the vagaries of memory.   As Pinter has said, “The past is what you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend you remember.”  And both artists’ works are, uncompromisingly, what you make of them as they meld with your own body of memories.

And so we have Old Times, a quirky little play in which three people whose lives have been intertwined try to sort out their mutual memories.  Director John Pleshette has mounted this 1971 Pinter play in a fine new production at The Lost Studio in Hollywood.  This is one of Pleshette's ongoing involvements in The Lost Studio's Pinter Project, which began in 2000.  And since both Pinter and Pleshette are Jewish, the subtleties and ironies of Jewish humor provide an idiosyncratic undertone to their combined work.  

Dan Cowan plays Deeley, a peripatetic film director whose work often takes him away from his rural home and his enigmatic wife. Cecelia Specht  plays the wife, Kate, with a vacant stare, a vast indifference, and smothering silences, which Deeley tries relentlessly to penetrate.

Their mostly monosyllabic exchanges are ruptured by the boisterous arrival of Anna (Cerris Morgan-Moyer), Kate’s one-time roommate and only friend.  Anna serves as the catalyst for unlocking memories that both Deeley and Kate claim to have forgotten.  And yet, she, too, has her own protective wall against a mutual history that they recall.

Deeley claims to have met her at the Wayfarer’s Tavern in London some 20 years earlier.  She denies it, but adopts an intimate, flirtatious posture with him and, in a burst of conviviality they take turns singing lines to each other from the popular ballads of their youth.  In fact, the romantic music of the ‘40s that embellish the silences provide some of the play’s best moments.

But the unspoken questions raised are never answered.  Did Deeley and Anna have a sexual connection?  Were Anna and Kate more than platonic friends?  What is the meaning of the recollection of the crying man?  Why is Kate so intent on maintaining her inscrutability, neither confirming nor denying the divergent images that Deeley and Anna have of her?  As Anna notes, in defense of her own memories, “There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.”

In typical Pinter fashion, Old Times also deals with the themes of loneliness and abandonment, a lifelong concern of the playwright.  As Pinter’s biographers contend, these themes were instilled in him when, as a young boy, he was sent away from his family to protect him from the bombs and ravages of wartime London.

In more recent times, Pinter has played an ever-expanding role in the political arena, speaking out most vociferously against what he sees as American barbarism.  He expounded this theme most publicly in his 45-minute acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.  It was a most flagrant contradiction to his playwrighting style, in which the audience is invited to fill in the long silences with what they presume are the unspoken thoughts of the protagonists.  But, although Pinteresque pauses and silences are the creative hallmarks of his work, he remains, at 78, an outspoken and influential voice for peace and justice.  No ambiguity there!

Old Times
will run Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, through April 13 at the Lost Studio Theatre, 130 South LaBrea Avenue, in Hollywood.  For reservations, call 800-595-4849.

Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World



Tuesday, March 11, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 61)

Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.: National borders ignored by terrorists
Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: PBS explores forgiveness; can the Jewish community ever forgive Germany?
Lloyd Levy in London: Will Jewish woes in UK spread to US?
J. Zel Lurie in Delray Beach, Florida: Hillary in 2008 and Barack in 2016
Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: City Ballet of San Diego records a milestone

Monday, March 10, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 60)

Donald H. Harrison in Poway, California: Ner Tamid celebrates renewed unity at 'Night at the Kasbah'
Natasha Josefowitz in La Jolla, California: The nail that gets hammered down first
Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: Contemplating time travel from the San Diego Library's rare book room

Sunday, March 9, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 59)

Judy Lash Balint in Jerusalem: Mercaz Harav central to Israeli life
Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.: Shootings should end the 'Peace Process'
Carol Davis in San Diego: Snobs eschew The American Plan
Peter Garas in Canberra, Australia: Hey mate, opportunity in Australia
Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: Shor, 6, meets His Honor, The Mayor
Rabbi Baruch Lederman in San Diego: Some thoughts for those at a shiva
Dov Burt Levy in Salem, Massachusetts: Barack Obama, political nudniks and me
Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal in San Diego: The unending need for tzedakah

Friday-Saturday, March 7-8, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 58)

Shoshana Bryen in Washington, D.C.: Question to Olmert: Is Bush agenda yours?
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort in Carlsbad, California: Pain of Jerusalem murders is white hot
Lloyd Levy in London: Museum tablet corroborates Jeremiah
Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: The Sabbath’s Omnipotent Painter
Rabbi Peter Tarlow in College Station, Texas: Huánuco, Peru, is planning for March 14 its first Jewish service in over a century

Thursday, March 6, 2008 (Vol. 2, No. 57)

Sherry Berlin in San Diego: Sarah laughs...and Sammy enjoys Shavuot
Donald H. Harrison in San Diego: Mafia 'wise guy' converts to Judaism
Sheila Orysiek in San Diego: Choreographer seeks to decentralize dance
from New York City, make it more eclectic

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