15 November 2012


Life is crazy isn't it?

The last few weeks really are a blur.  The tsunami of campaign commercials and phone calls and misleading attacks, washed away by the greater hurricane winds and rains of Sandy.  Lives lost, countless thousands displaced and devastated.  Politically, a balancing out.  Turnout of young, black, Asian and Latino voters along with college students and of course, women, tip the balance.  The President is re-elected.  The Jewish Right's strategy seems not to have worked--they were outfoxed by the President on that one, who threw pitches over the plate to American Jews, fastballs down the middle to the idea that equality, fairness and economic justice were equally if not more important than a singular devotion to Prime Minister Netanyahu's definition of Israel's security interests.  (Because it's so disheartening and grotesque, we'll leave on the trash heap of history the grotesque assertions and scared tactics used to frighten voters about the President's identity.  Xenophobia, thank God, was crushed.)

In our community we have made and personally delivered more than 15,000 meals and developed a devoted volunteer corps of more than 1400 individuals.  Rozanne Gold and Michael Whiteman are the culinary heroes of Park Slope.  We love them.  As we love everyone -- members and non-members, generations across the ages.  Background, race, nation and belief don't matter--the body politic of CBE's hurricane relief is as diverse as America itself.  They're happy and proud to serve.

The founders, who built the Main Sanctuary in 1909 and carved above the door "Mine House Shall Be An House of Prayer for All Peoples" knew what they were doing.  We've worked with Councilmen Lander and Levin, Mayor Bloomberg, Occupy Sandy, FEMA, the Red Cross, the Red Hook Initiative, the Center for Court Innovation, Speaker Quinn, President Markowitz, and Senator Adams.  We've worked with Masbia, UJA, the URJ, JASA, COJECO and the hero of heroes, Leonard Petlakh and the Kings Bay Y.  And Cindy Greenberg, our intrepid Program Director, who refuses to believe we should ever stop helping.  Ever.   Synagogues and churches and individuals from around the country have come to CBE to lend a hand.  We sent 20 AmericaCorps Fellows to the Nets-Cavs game the other night and at sundown yesterday found 4 tickets to the Who concert for the Fellows as well.  This week 15 Israeli Scouts come to help--we'll house them, feed them, and send them out into the field with UJA.  Sounds good.

This is what happens when you say "yes."

When you say "yes" more than fifty people travel to Israel with their rabbis in February.  Kids, adults, a couple buses, a bunch of hotels, great food, warm people, complicated situations and dangerous borders.  We pulled this trip off in the middle of this chaos--it seems to be the theme of the 21st century--do what you can with what you got--because we care about Israel, its future, its relationship to American Jewry.  Our relationship with each other.

I'll admit to a kind of weary head-scratch yesterday when I read the news and watched the video of new conflict in Gaza and Southern Israel.  An email from a friend immediately said it all:  "My heart aches for innocent lives, for children, for families, for soldiers risking their lives in a call to duty.  For Palestinians and Israelis."  I'd add, led by people saying "no."

No peace; no talks; no negotiations.  Itchy trigger fingers, war games, in a region that right now is a cauldron for change.  It was enough to wake up yesterday and learn about riots in Jordan over gasoline prices; to read through weary eyes about tensions and border incursions with Syria and Egypt in the Sinai.  To wonder if and when Hezbollah will pounce.   Jeffrey Goldberg will be good to follow if you don't already.  As Jeffrey points out, rockets into Kiryat Malachi today, killing three Israelis, could trigger a ground war into Gaza.  That's just not good for anybody.  It'll be painful to watch.

An election season where nuclear Iran was a major wedge between the President and Governor Romney, vying for votes in Florida, the smoke clears and Florida's electoral contribution was a mere afterthought, a forgotten civic sacrifice, now obliterated by the klieg lights of General Petraeus' libido, a Romanesque circus of military might and phony charities taking place in a gated Tampa that makes Las Vegas look like a Mormon enclave in Utah.

Okay, that might have been too much but you get my drift.

The world's a big mess.  And sometimes, you're born into the obligation to clean it up.  You didn't make it, it might even annoy you that you're left holding the bag, but there really isn't an acceptable alternative.

You simply roll up your sleeves and say "yes."

Yes to Coney Island and yes to Red Hook; yes to the Rockaways and yes to Canarsie.  Yes to Israel.  Yes to Palestine.  Yes to love and caring for others.  Yes to peace.  Sometimes you travel a few blocks from home to make it; sometimes you get on a plane and go half-way around the world.  Yes in any language is easily understood.  It means "yes."



Old First said...

Yes yes yes yes

Ira said...

I was also at the 1987 Washington rally, which was a formative experience for me.

It was great to see Sharansky at CBE, really great.

With respect to Sharansky's opposition to withdrawal from Gaza, he can speak for himself I think it's important to mark, particularly for those who may not have followed the matter closely at the time that, at least as I recall it based on my conversations with him at the time, his opposition to Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal plan was NOT based on opposition to the idea of Palestinian self-rule in Gaza, or even opposition to eventual Palestinian statehood. Rather it was based in part on his conversations with Palestinians about the nature of the individuals and groups likely to take power after an Israeli unilateral withdrawal. He predicted, correctly, that the ruling power that arose would be an unfree power. That would be bad for the Palestinians (not many Park Slope progressive values like women's rights or gay rights in the Hamas-governed Gaza that resulted from the Sharon unilateral withdrawal!) and also for the Israelis as the unfree Hamas state has been used as a rocket launching pad for terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. If anything, one could argue that the events of the past week or so, that is, the rocket attacks on Israel coming from a Hamas-ruled Gaza, indicate that Sharansky's opposition to the Sharon unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was, in retrospect, wise, and that the alternative he advised of focusing on institution-building and civil society would have been wiser. (At the time, I didn't voice a view for or against the Gaza withdrawal, figuring it was a matter for the elected Israeli government to decide rather than for American Jews who don't live there).