Volume 3, Number 55
"There's a Jewish story everywhere"
On February 3, 1943, The U.S. Army Transportation Service troopship Dorchester was torpedoed in the North Atlantic by a German submarine. Of the 900 passengers and crew, four were the ship's chaplains – Methodist Chaplain George Lansing Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed Minister Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest.
As the ship was sinking, the chaplains comforted the crew and distributed life vests. When supply ran out, they took off their own life vests and gave them out as well. The Chaplains were last seen by witnesses standing arm-in-arm on the hull of the ship, each praying in his own way for the care of the men. Almost 700 died, making it the third largest loss at sea of its kind for the United States during World War II. Many of the men who survived owed their lives to the Four Chaplains.
Memorials to the Chaplains’ sacrifice exist throughout the country. In 1948, the United States issued a stamp honoring the Immortal Chaplains as true examples of “Interfaith in Action.” Congress also recognized the chaplains’ selfless acts with a special medal for valor in 1960.
The heroism of these four exemplary men of faith is an example of love for others without regard to race, religion, or creed, and an acknowledgment of the human potential for compassion.
To learn more about the four Immortal Chaplains, you can visit the website of The Immortal Chaplains Foundation, which was established by the Chaplains’ relatives and Dorchester survivors: www.immortalchaplains.org
TORAH ON ONE FOOT
SAN DIEGO—For several weeks my Basic Judaism students have been involved in heated theological discussions about the existence of God and the nature of evil. The basic problem: if God is all good and all powerful, then why does evil exist? Or, as Rabbi Harold Kushner asked in his well known book on the subject: Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
One response that I unequivocally reject is that the pain and suffering that people experience in life is punishment from God for their bad behavior. This is the theology of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel and the current spiritual leader of the Shas party. Rabbi Yosef once announced on Israel radio that the Shoah (Holocaust) was God's punishment for the sins of the secularized Jews of Europe.
Although condemned by many other rabbis, including Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Yosef was not innovating, but rather reiterating a well established Jewish approach to evil: bad things happen to good people to punish them for their sins. Many years before the Shoah the Ketav Sofer (Abraham Samuel Benjamin Schreiber of Pressburg, 1815-1879) gave the same response in commenting on this week's special maftir, Zachor. On the Shabbat before Purim we read the Torah's account of the tribe of Amalek's attack on the Israelites in the desert. Amalek attacked Israel from the rear, assaulting the weakest and weariest members of the people first. Haman is a descendant of Amalek, and his death is seen by our tradition as retribution for the vicious attack of his ancestors, as well as his own misdeeds.
The Ketav Sofer asks the theological question, which he says is well known: "Why were Pharaoh, Amalek, Haman, etc., punished? How could they be held responsible for their actions? Weren't they all agents of God sent to punish the Israelites for their transgressions?"
"Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt-how, undeterred by God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear....you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heaven. Do not forget!"
(The Ketav Sofer's following interpretations are in italics)
"Remember what Amalek did to you..." even though "you were famished and weary and [you, the Israelites] did not fear God" and therefore were deserving of Divine punishment, despite this "you shall blot out the memory of Amalek" what he intended to do you, that he wanted to cause you harm. What you should not forget (i.e., remember) is that even when you battle Amalek today you should not do it out of anger and vengeance but rather to fulfill the will of God.
In this rather convoluted way, the Ketav Sofer was teaching that a) the Israelites were attacked by Amalek as punishment for their sins, and b) everything that happens is the will of God, and that human feelings and emotions should be sublimated to doing God's will.
Needless to say, I have a problem with both of his conclusions! I do not believe in a God who punishes people for their bad behavior through illness, pain, or death. I also do not believe that is possible to completely sublimate human emotion and personality in taking any action, including the performance of mitzvot. I believe that God recognizes our humanity and makes allowances for our failures, shortcomings, and feelings. I find such beliefs masochistic and "blame the victims" for their suffering.
How, then, does one adequately explain the existence of pain and suffering in the world in the presence of an all-powerful and all-good God? Unfortunately, at this point in my life, I cannot. I am still searching for an adequate theological response. But I know what I do not believe, which includes claiming to know what is in God's Mind.
Rabbi Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
LA JOLLA, California (Press Release) – The Jacob Goldberg Annual Series: 2009 – A Year of Decision, a program of the Astor Judaica Library presented by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus, will run March 30-April 1 at 7:30 p.m. The lecture series takes place in the David & Dorothea Garfield Theatre.
“Jacob Goldberg’s insights into modern Israeli and Middle Eastern issues always create such intense interest that we’ve made his lectures an annual event,” said Jackie Gmach, Program Director.
The Jacob Goldberg Annual Series –2009 – A Year of Decision
Against the backdrop of a new American administration, Israel will face a moment of truth on three fronts. The decisions Israel will make this year are bound to shape Middle Eastern history and events for many years to come. Lectures will focus on each of these challenges:
Mon., March 30, 7:30 p.m. – The Hamas Dilemma: Palestinina-Israeli relations in the aftermath of the Gaza War
Tues., March 31, 7:30 p.m. – The Northern Puzzle: Between confrontation with Hizballah and prospects of a Syrian-Israeli peace.
Wed., April 1, 7:30 p.m. – The Nuclear Challenge: Iran crossing the point-of-no-return.
Goldberg was an adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, on regional and international affairs from 1999 until 2001. He participated in the negotiations with the Palestinian leadership as well as in meetings at the White House, the Kremlin, and numerous other capitals.
For the last decade Goldberg has been a professor at the College of Legal Studies in Israel. Prior to that, he was Acting Head and Senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He is an internationally respected lecturer and consultant on the Middle East, with particular emphasis on Arab-Israeli relations, Persian Gulf politics and oil, and American-Israeli relations. Goldberg is the author of The Foreign Policy of Saudi Arabia, published by Harvard University Press. He has also published numerous articles in the leading newspapers in Israel and the U.S., including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
General Information—The Jacob Goldberg Annual Series is a program of the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacob Family Campus, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. Ticket prices range from $9-$12 for each individual lecture. For information or tickets call the JCC Box Office at 858-362-1348, or visit the web site at www.lfjcc.org
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When Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Tajtelbaum of Golders Green, London, passed away in May 2004, he left a staggering legacy of philanthropy both in London and in Eretz Yisroel. His son, Rabbi Mendel, shared the story that shaped his father's life:
Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid grew up in the poverty-stricken town of Sierpc (pronounced Shepps) in Poland. Though the Tajtelbaums were better off than others, often a supper consisted only of a thick soup with some pieces of vegetable and scraps of chicken.
On one particularly cold snowy evening, Mrs. Shprintza Tajtelbaum began serving this kind of soup to her husband and nine children. Everyone had a bowl and she went from bowl to bowl, filling them according to the ages of children, giving each of them a fair share from a limited pot.
As she finished filling the last child's bowl and was getting ready to fill her own bowl, there was a nasty knock on the front door. Mrs. Tajtelbaum sent one of the children to answer it.
The children frowned from the putrid odor that emanated from this vagabond. The mother said softly, "Go into the bathroom and wash up. You will feel better."
The children then watched in amazement as she went around the table and took a spoonful of soup from each of their bowls and put in it a separate bowl, which she then set down on the table for their unexpected new guest.
As the man ate his soup, it was obvious he hadn't eaten in a while. Repulsed as they were by this grimy individual, the children would never forget their mother's magnanimity.
Years later it was said that when Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid was interned in the Auschwitz slave-labor camp, where he was subjected to deprivation, starvation and cruelty, he kept only half of his daily bread ration for himself. The other half he would divide into tiny pieces and dispense them to others who were on the verge of starvation.
Decades later, as a wealthy man in London, he observed that the Torah states, When you lend money to My people, to the poor person with you ... (Exodus 22:24). Since the Torah, in its original Hebrew, has no vowels, the word for "loan" can also be read, "to accompany. "This would teach us If you want your money to accompany you [in the Next World,] lend it or give it to My people, the poor man ...
"You can't take your money with you," Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid would teach, "but that which you give to others will escort you in the Next World."
Dedicated anonymously in memory of Rabbi Baruch Lederman's father, Mr. Irving I Lederman.
SAN DIEGO (Press Release) — How does Morah Danielle teach the second graders at Hebrew Day 400 shorashim (Hebrew root words)? With lots of fun games! This photo shows two teams of second graders competing in the Shorashim speed quiz. In the game, Morah Danielle calls out a shoresh (a three letter root Hebrew word) to two students, one from each team. The student who rings the bell has to translate it from Hebrew to English. If they get the answer correct, they get a point for their team; if they get it wrong the other team gets a point. Of course Morah Danielle has lots of prizes to give everyone, making learning Hebrew fun!
Soille San Diego Hebrew Day School serves children from infants through eighth grade and offers generous financial aid grants to families to make a Jewish day school education affordable to all. For more information on the school, visit the web site at http://www.hebrewday.org/ or contact Audrey Jacobs, Director of School Advancement at 858-279-3300 ext. 106 or email@example.com
Yenta: Straight from the Mouth is disjointedly held together by three threads: periodic philosophical profundities from Kierkegaard, commentaries on her plans for “when I rule the world,” and the ongoing preparations for her son Jonathan’s wedding.
Yenta: Straight from the Mouth is directed by Judy Chaikin, although Korzen doesn’t appear to need much direction. She notes that her primary goal is to “just be myself,” but adds that “in my case that’s the wrong choice.”
The best choice for you, however, is to hurry to the El Centro Theatre at 800 N. El Centro in Hollywood, where Korzen will be appearing Saturday afternoons at 3 and Sunday evenings at 7 through March 22. For tickets call (323) 460-4443.
A bissel sports trivia with Bruce Lowitt
OLDSMAR, Florida—Q: Who won seven world championships in table tennis, including four singles titles, became the sport’s first professional player, in the 1950s, and toured extensively with the Harlem Globetrotters?
(a) Richard Bergmann
(b) Ingrid Bergman
(c) Gretel Bergmann
(d) Ingmar Bergman
Background: The Vienna-born member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame won his first world championship in 1936, at age 16, as a member of the Austrian team. The next year he became the youngest player in history to win the men’s singles gold medal. When Germany invaded Austria in 1938 he fled to England and began competing for that country.
Please click here for answer
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BALLOON UTOPIA JEWISH COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
Cottage of Israel
There may be no greater defense than openness to diversity, and action against those who violate obvious norms of courtesy. I see no way that you or others can probe all communications before posting them.
Bogus identity, and particularly impersonation are sins in anything approaching civilized discussion and especially anything associated with research. I've been fortunate to have worked in settings where dispute remains within wide, but civilized boundaries. My publications, and my postings on the internet have aroused some nasty responses. I've decided that my own best defense is the delete button.
You did right to apologize. I'm curious about the details. As ever, I am amazed at the energy that individuals can invest in attacking others in what are disputes destined to remain unresolved. I don't know any of the participants, but feel some pity for the scholarly father whose son condemned his work to be a subject of scorn and ridicule.