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Remembering IDF Col., Astronaut Ilan Ramon

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
/ Jewish News Agency

Tel Aviv, Israel — February 2023 … The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and civilians of Israel remember the passing of Ilan Ramon, a former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot and the first Israeli astronaut. Ramon lost his life, along with six other crew members, during the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003.

Ilan Ramon’s life and legacy will always be remembered as an inspiration for future generations. He represented the strength and resilience of the Jewish people and will continue to be a source of pride for the State of Israel. The IDF and civilians of Israel extend their heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ilan Ramon and the other crew members of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Ramon’s pioneering spirit, bravery and dedication to his country will continue to be a source of inspiration for Israelis and people around the world. We honor his memory and the sacrifices he made for the pursuit of knowledge and the betterment of humanity.

IDF Captain Joel Leyden was working at the Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson’s Office and was called to the Situation Room. Leyden was asked by his commander to write a statement announcing Ramon’s death. He responded: “What do I say?” Leyden said: “I had bought candy to hand out to all staff members as we were monitoring his re-entry on several TV networks. We were all devastated as we witnessed the explosion. The radio silence between the Space Shuttle and Ground Control. There was no candy, only tears. He was one of us. He wore the uniform. But transcending all, he was a Jew who provided inspiration to the State of Israel and nations throughout the world. His was an act of peace that none of us will ever forget.”

Ilan was survived by his wife Rona and their four children (Assaf, Tal, Yiftah, and Noa), who were in Florida at the time of the accident.

Israel President Isaac Herzog attended the 18th Ilan Ramon International Space Conference this morning, held as part of Israel Space Week 2023.

Yesterday, the President met Eytan Stibbe and his fellow astronauts from the Ax-1 Mission to the International Space Station, the first-ever private mission to the ISS, which launched in April 2022. Astronauts Eytan Stibbe, Michael López-Alegría, Larry Connor, and Mark Pathy told the President about the Israeli space experiments they participated in, about their work together as a space crew, and about their personal experiences onboard the ISS.

The President asked the astronauts about their mission, training, and return to Planet Earth. Eytan Stibbe gave President Herzog back the glass cube that the President gave him to take to the International Space Station, inscribed with the Prayer to the State of Israel in the handwriting of its author, the President’s grandfather, Israel’s first chief rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog.

The President said this morning at the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference: “All of this seemingly infinite possibility isn’t only about reaching beyond ourselves to new planets. It is also about using our new capabilities to preserve and protect this fragile and beautiful planet we call home. In fact, when Ilan was aboard the Columbia spacecraft, he talked about how beautiful Planet Earth appears from all the way up in space, but also about how unspeakably fragile it is. Earth, he said, must be protected. And just as hundreds of kilometers above land borders disappear and are replaced by an intense awareness that we all share one Earth, I believe we must work together across borders and divides, to help make life on this planet better for everyone.”

The President said in summary: “The last great era of space exploration was driven by the competition of the Cold War. I believe that the new era of space exploration can be driven by the goodwill of our Warm Peace. Let us walk in the footsteps, or rather soar in the flight paths, of Ilan Ramon and his fellow astronauts, and move upward and onward, harnessing the power of space, for the promise of Earth. Together, we can take space exploration—and our capacity for human collaboration—to new heights and save our planet from new and terrifying depths.”

At the start of the conference, NASA Associate Administrator Robert D. Cabana and NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development James Free gave the President a special present: a patch from the Artemis-1 mission, which recently returned to Earth from its journey to lunar orbit.

Israel PM Netanyahu Meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — January 30, 2023 … Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and made the following remarks:

“Secretary of State Blinken, Tony, welcome once again to Jerusalem.

Your visit is another expression, a continual expression, of the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States. It’s one of the great alliances of modern history. We share common interests which are growing by the day. We share common values. Two strong democracies which will remain, I assure you, two strong democracies. This alliance is something that President Biden is committed to. I’ve known him for 40 years. He’s a true friend of Israel. A true champion of this alliance, as are you.

I am not sure that all of Israel know your own contribution in helping us with missile defense in times of peril. You’ve actually helped us during one crisis in record time and then did so again. And you’ve also just helped us push back on the attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations and we’re grateful for that and for your continual friendship.

Your visit comes at an important time. It’s a time where many in the international community, I would say most of the international community, have seen the true face of Iran. They’ve seen the barbarism of this regime against its own people. They’ve seen how it exports aggression beyond its border and beyond the Middle East. And I think there’s a common consensus that this regime must not acquire nuclear weapons. We’ve had very good discussions on forging a common policy, on trying to work together to thwart the danger.

I can repeat again something that you’ve heard me say many times, our policy and my policy is to do everything within Israel’s power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them and that will remain so. But obviously the fact that we and the United States are working together is something that is important for this common goal as well.

In addition to thwarting the danger, we also see an opportunity to seize opportunities. The opportunities of expanding the circle of peace. We intend to deepen the peace that we’ve already made in the Abraham Accords. We’ve discussed some of the initiatives that we are considering doing together but also perhaps to achieve dramatic breakthroughs that I think could be both historic and enormously significant in our common efforts to bring prosperity, security and peace to this part of the world and beyond.

So with this in mind I have to tell you that I also believe that expanding the circle of peace, working to close, finally, the file of the Arab-Israeli conflict I think would also help us achieve a workable solution with our Palestinian neighbors.

For all these reasons, I welcome you once again to Jerusalem.

Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Gallant Observe Juniper Oak IDF-US Joint Exercise

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — January 25, 2023 … Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, today (Wednesday, 25 January 2023), visited the Israel Air Force control center in the framework of the Juniper Oak 23.2 exercise, together with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar, Prime Minister’s Military Secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil, IDF Operations Branch Commander Maj.-Gen. Oded Basiuk and additional senior commanders.

Netanyahu and Minister Gallant observed – from the control center – the live-fire exercise by the Israeli and US air forces and were briefed on both the activity of the air, ground and naval forces in the exercise, and the joint training with the US military.

“This exercise expresses the unshakeable strategic partnership between Israel and the US, and constitutes an additional stage in building up Israeli military strength,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“Israel will always defend itself with its own forces but – of course – welcomes the deepening cooperation with our greatest ally.”

Israel Defense Minister Gallant stated: “The IDF is Israel’s shield. The strength of the IDF is what enables life in our country.”

“The cooperation in the exercise, between the IDF and the US military, is a welcome step that improves and adds to the capabilities of the defense establishment.”

Netanyahu Is Committed to Maintaining Status Quo in Jerusalem

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — January 3, 2023 … Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is committed to strictly maintaining the status quo, without changes, on the Temple Mount.

Netanyahu states: “We will not be dictated to by Hamas. Under the status quo, ministers have gone up to the Temple Mount in recent years, including Israel Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan; therefore, the claim that a change has been made in the status quo is without foundation.”

The compound, known as Temple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, to Muslims, is Judaism’s most sacred site and Islam’s third-holiest after Mecca and Medina.

The vast plaza overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City, with the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is an important holy site for Christians as well. Until its destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70, the Second Jewish Temple was believed to have been located there. For Muslims, Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven is associated with the sacred site.

Largest Gathering of Israeli-American, Jewish American Community In Austin, January 19 – 21

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Austin, Texas — December 27, 2022 … The IAC National Summit is one of the largest, highest-profile and most impactful events in the Jewish world. The theme is celebrating “Israel. Together”: Together as a united community. Together, as the Jewish people in the United States and Israel are interconnected. 

Summit speakers include Israeli and American thought leaders, public figures, influencers and decision-makers from business, education, philanthropy, technology, politics, and activism.

The IAC National Summit features a lineup of renown speakers, public figures, politicians, artists and business leaders from the Jewish community in America and internationally, the IAC is respected for its magnetic power to pull top influencers and personalities to engage in impactful conversations about our present, future and young generation of Israelis and Jewish Americans in the U.S.

Celebrating Israel 75
Launching the 75th year of Israel, the summit will be celebrating Israel’s birthday with performances by Israeli mega-star, Noa Kirel (just months before she represents Israel in the Eurovision contest), as well as the social musical experience Koolulam, hosting public singing by all summit participants in a unique singing experience.

Israel America Business Playground
This year, unlike all others, the IAC summit is celebrating 75 years of Israeli innovation in Austin, Texas – the hub of economic flourish and creative innovation in the U.S., bringing the start-up nation’s top business, tech, real estate moguls, entrepreneurs and leaders to its first ever Israel America Business Playground.
The playground is the ultimate ground to cultivating cross-Atlantic relationships, as well as magnifying opportunities, connections and relationships between Israeli and American businesses in the U.S.
As part of the playground, speakers such as Adam Singolda (Founder of Taboola), Uri Levine (Founder of Waze), and many others will join in conversations around Israeli business innovations, real estate developments, environmental innovations, health-tech, fintech and more.

The IAC National Summit Is A Family Event
Inviting all age groups from 13 years old and up.
The summit features unique tracks for teenagers, college students and business leaders, allowing each age group to feel their connection to Israel in their own way. This year the summit hosts viral sensations including,
Noa Kirel, Nas Daily and London Laz, which will engage the audience in impactful interactive engagements.

Economic “Iron-Dome” And War Against Anti-Semitism
Letting the young generation pave the path for our future, and our present, fight against anti-semitism, the Summit brings together influential figures to help navigate through this challenging path.
Community activists including Noa Tishby, Elan Kar, Joseph Hadad, Rudy Rochman, joined by Mossad and Foreign Affairs representatives including Ehud Lavie, Former Deputy Director of the Mossad and Zohar Palti, former director of Mossad Intelligence, will address and discuss our current state of increased antisemitism and how to respond to it.

Christmas Greetings from Israel Prime Minister Yair Lapid

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — December 24, 2022 …. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, this evening had the following holiday message to the global Christian community:

“To all of our Christian friends celebrating here in Israel and around the world, we wish you very Merry Christmas and Happy, Peaceful New Year!

The friendship we share is not only about our history here in Israel.

It is also about the future.

About how Israel is home to a Christian community that continues to grow and thrive – unlike anywhere else in our region.

On behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, I want to thank the millions of Christians around the world who love Israel, pray for Israel, and always stand with Israel.

We are all looking forward to seeing our special friendship continue to grow in the new year.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

Technion Israel Develops Invisible Facemask Against Air-Borne Pathogens

Researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology have developed a revolutionary invisible facemask to protect wearers against the transmission of COVID, MERS, influenza, and other respiratory viruses.

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Haifa, Israel — December 3, 2022 … Although conventional facemasks help protect against disease transmission, recent scientific research illustrates that they also present adverse psychological and physiological effects. They reduce facial identification and emotion recognition, adversely affect oral communication, and can cause headaches and skin problems. Wearing masks throughout the workday also results in a lack of focus, as well as reduced attention and patience in a wide range of professions. As a result of these difficulties, many people wear masks incorrectly – on or below their mouths – which greatly reduces protection against Covid and other viruses. Even in Japan, where facemasks are common, a large study found that just 20 percent of people wear masks correctly.

Conventional facemasks have also led to a dramatic rise in plastic waste, exacerbated by governmental mask-wearing mandates, producing millions of tons annually.

A Technion team in Israel led by Professors Moshe Shoham and David Greenblatt has come up with a radically new solution to the conventional mask dilemma by creating an invisible “air-screen” in front of the wearer’s face. The air-screen originates from within a lightweight filter-covered unit mounted on the visor of a cap. Several major advantages became clear: the air-screen protects the eyes, nose, and mouth without negative effects on facial identity, emotion recognition, or oral communication. The air screen is also reusable, so it does not pollute the environment.

Recently published research, based on experiments conducted in Prof. Greenblatt’s laboratory, demonstrated the air-screen’s efficacy by effectively blocking aerosols produced during oral communication, as well as large droplets produced by coughing and sneezing. It also removes quiescent aerosol-laden air from in front of the face by a process known as “entrainment.” This joint effect of blocking and entrainment can be seen in the video, where laser illumination is used to render the airflow visible. David Keisar and Anan Garzozi, students in the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program, were instrumental in conducting and analyzing the experimental data, and in developing a theoretical physics-based mathematical model of the air-screen.

Several one-on-one interviews and pilot studies with more than 50 subjects from various sectors (e.g., older adults and their caretakers in nursing homes, university professors and their students, close-proximity workers including tutors, physiotherapists and psychologists, retail workers in stores and offices, and high-tech management teams and board members who participate in long meetings indoors), clearly showed the advantage of the invisible air screen over the commonly used face masks.  These groups represent potential early adopters, who will benefit most from this new technology in Israel and globally.

The Technion recently licensed the technology to Wisdome Wearables Ltd. This new startup is currently in the process of commercializing the product, and seeking partners to realize this disruptive technology for the benefit of those at high-risk of suffering from respiratory viruses.

The Technion is a science and technology research university, among the world’s top ten, dedicated to the creation of knowledge and the development of human capital and leadership, for the advancement of the State of Israel and all humanity. The Technion is respected as a global pioneer in multidisciplinary research into fields including energy, nanotechnology and life science. It has 18 academic departments and 52 research centers and over 13,000 students.

Trump Has Dinner With Holocaust Denier, White Supremacist Nick Fuentes

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency / Jewish News Agency

Florida — November 27, 2022 … Anti-racist groups have condemned Donald Trump for having a dinner with American white supremacist and anti-semite Nick Fuentes after details of their encounter at the former US president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida emerged.

The meeting is the latest in a long line of anti-semitic incidents involving Trump and the extreme far right, including once referencing the Neo-Nazi Proud Boys in a presidential debate and his comments that there were “very fine people on both sides” after 2017 clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one anti-fascist protester dead.

Trump admitted he met Fuentes – who is open about his extreme racist and anti-semitic views on his podcast – during a dinner with Kanye West, the rapper now known as Ye.

One person present at the dinner said that Trump was very impressed by Fuentes. “He was impressed with Nick and his knowledge of Trump World. Nick knew people and figures and speeches and rallies and what surrounded the Trump culture, particularly when it came to the base,” Karen Giorno, a former Trump aide and senior adviser, told the Washington Post.

Republicans have not commented on Trump and his associations with racists except for Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“We strongly condemn the virulent antisemitism of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes and call on all political leaders to reject their messages of hate and refuse to meet with them,” Brooks told the Washington Post.

Joel Leyden, the executive director of the Center Against Antisemitism which campaigns against bigotry and antisemitism, condemned Trump’s meeting with Fuentes and expressed shock at the development.

“Nick Fuentes is among the most prominent and unapologetic antisemites in the country,” said Leyden.
“He’s a vicious bigot and known Holocaust denier who has been condemned by leading figures from both political parties here.”

Leyden added: “Many think that Trump is pro-Israel because he moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. What they don’t know is that billionaire Sheldon Adelson paid Trump through millions of dollars in campaign donations.”

Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party’s biggest funder over the past decade, used a $20 million donation to a super PAC to pressure then-president Donald Trump to adopt the decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That quid-pro-quo is described in New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman’s new book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.”

“Adelson’s singular focus was Israel,” wrote Haberman, effectively acknowledging that the former president’s biggest funder was most interested in promoting the interests of the Jewish community.

Dining with bigots is perfectly on brand for Trump, given his well-documented history of making vulgar comments about majority non-White countries and downplaying the threat posed by White supremacists.

Israel Security Agency Thwarts Islamic Jihad Plot to Detonate Bomb

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem, Israel — November 26, 2022 … Islamic terrorist Fathi Ziad Zakout, 31, resident of Rafah in the Gaza Strip with a permit for work inside Israel, was arrested by the ISA (Shabak) and the Israel Police on 30 October 2022. The ISA investigation of Zakout reveals that he was sent by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization to carry out an IED bombing attack on an Israeli bus line in the south of the country. Zakout’s social media presence reveals publications with extremist content.

The ISA investigation of Zakout revealed that he was trained on IEDs by an explosives expert in the Gaza Strip, and began operating to collect materials for assembly of IED’s during his entries to Israel. The materials were seized during his arrest.

The ISA investigation of Zakout revealed the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, as well as the fact that the terror attack was orchestrated by Jihad Anaem, a high ranking Islamic Jihad member from Rafah. Additionally, the investigation revealed that Zakout was in operational contact with Mahmad and Karim Temraz, relatives of his and Islamic Jihad members from Rafah, who recruited him to advance this terrorist attack.

The Israel State Attorney (Southern District) filed charges against Zakout today. The indictment alleges offenses against the security of the State of Israel: Weapons charges (holding and carrying weaponry); active membership in a terrorist organization; directing or training for terrorist purposes; preparation to carry out terrorist activity (murder); providing services to a banned organization and contact with a foreign agent.

An ISA officer noted: “Israel will not tolerate attempts to exploit the civilian axis for the advancement of terrorist activity by terrorists in the Gaza Strip and will take strong action against such attempts, while holding Hamas responsible for activities emanating from the Gaza Strip.

Due to the information mentioned above, and following recommendations from the ISA in coordination with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, it was decided to revoke the work permits of approximately 200 Gaza Strip residents with familial ties to terrorists.

Additional steps will be considered by the Israel security forces to eliminate the exploitation of the civilian axis for terrorist attacks.

The findings of the investigation again illustrate that terrorists in the Gaza Strip expend major efforts to build terrorist cells that harm regional stability, including the exploitation of work permits given by Israel, in order to advance terrorist activity.

This case is one of many in which the ISA, IDF and Israel Police have taken action in recent months to expose and thwart terrorist networks in Israel, and in Judea and Samaria, that were guided by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. These networks advanced the carrying out of terrorist attacks by recruiting operatives, including family members, in Israel and in Judea and Samaria.

The ISA together with the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police will continue to take determined action to expose and thwart any terrorist activity aiming to harm Israeli civilians.

Prejudice – Do Not Allow Hate To Divide Us

Jews providing humanitarian aid to black Christians in Haiti

By Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg

Connecticut — November 12, 2022 … I spent the early part of this week in St. Louis at the Rabbinical Assembly Convention. It has been about three years since the last convention because of COVID so this convention was very special.

It felt good to be back together but only about 250 out of 1700 rabbis attended. Some of the attendance was lost because there is still a lot of fear about COVID but also, because it was not on the “east coast.” Many rabbis, I guess, did not want to take the time away.

That was a great mistake. The convention was well organized, the food was good (after all, it was at a Ritz Carlton – we got a good rate because conventions at hotels are hard to come by these days.) It was great to reconnect with friends and colleagues and this year, there were many young rabbis attending their first convention.
As always, there was plenty of learning at a high level. We were right across from Washington University and the Jewish Theological Seminary also sent several professors to teach us rabbis. Each evening we had a chance to share with colleagues the good and the problematic aspects of our work, and we had a chance to collaborate on better ways to address our challenges. In some ways, it is not the sessions that are so important, but the meetings in the hallways where the important questions are asked, and we guide each other to answers that might fit our needs.

Many of the rabbis present this year were not pulpit rabbis so there were many sessions to address their needs in the not-for-profit sector and in the field of education where they are working. It was a great convention. As you know, our daughter Ashira is the COO of the Rabbinical Assembly, so we got to have almost every meal with her, our son-in-law, and with our granddaughter, Arya. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I was chosen to be a part of a special series of sessions about the challenges for Rabbis and Synagogues in this difficult period of time. It was called, “Leading in Liminal Times.” Liminal Times refers to times when we find ourselves leaving our familiar work and relationships and we have not yet discovered what the future holds for us. We find ourselves standing in the doorway, on the doorstep, unable to go back but unsure where we are going. It is a time when we can rethink who we are and what we are doing and where we want to go as we wait patiently for the future to show us what new challenges we will need to address. That could be a sermon all in itself but there was something else that happened at convention that I believe is more important to share this Shabbat.

On Monday night we listened to a panel discussion on the religious relationships that had been
forged in St Louis since the death of Michael Brown in Fergeson, MO a suburb of St. Louis. Two
rabbis, a Conservative Rabbi and a Reform Rabbi, together with two Christian ministers, talked
about how the Jewish community supported the Black community during the unrest that
followed the death of Michael Brown, and how the Black community supported the Jewish
community after the Tree of Life shootings in Pittsburgh. How they all stood together to fight
the antisemitism that threatened their alliance. It was an open, honest conversation and it
opened more than a few eyes about how these two communities can get along.

It was the Reform Rabbi, Rabbi Susan Talve, who woke us up as she described her close
relationship with a Black United Church of Christ minister. They call themselves “sisters”. Rabbi
Talve noted that our parsha this week, Vayera, contained two stories, both of them equally
problematic for those who study the Bible and for those who are casual readers as well.
In one chapter, Sarah, our matriarch, insists to Abraham, that he send away his concubine,
Hagar, that is, his second wife, and to send away the son Hagar had given birth to over thirteen
years earlier, Ishmael. Abraham does not want to send away his first-born son, but Sarah
insists, and God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah. Abraham sends mother and son away, into the
wilderness and it is questionable if he has given them enough food and water for the journey.

How does a father send away a son? Hagar and Ishmael almost die in the desert until God
comes and saves them and then promises Hagar that Ishmael will be the founder of a new nation.
In the very next chapter, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his own son as a burnt offering to God.
Without any argument at all, Abraham departs with Isaac, early in the morning, on a three-day journey to the place where the sacrifice will happen. How does a father sacrifice a son? But Abraham does what he is told. He finds the place, builds the alter and raises up the knife to kill his son and only at the last minute does God stop the sacrifice and replaces the offering of Isaac with an offering of a ram. Abraham and Isaac depart that place but in different directions and the bible will not record any further conversations between father and son.

These two stories are stories that we should all know well. We read exactly these chapters on
Rosh Hashana. We read about some of the worst examples of parenting we can possibly
imagine on the most holy days at the beginning of the year. The Sages tell us that we read these
two stories to teach us that even great people can make terrible mistakes and still find forgiveness.

But Rabbi Talve, reminded us Rabbis of another important fact of these two stories side by side.
She said, “If we are not prepared to take care of the children of others, the next chapter will
have us sacrificing our own children.” It was that simple teaching that took all of our breath away.

Was it easier for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac after sending Ishmael unprotected and unprepared
into the desert? Even if God demands it, does the first story make the second one not only
possible but believable? We might try and deflect the horror of these stories by claiming that
they are only stories. We don’t know if they really happened. We don’t know if there was a real
Abraham or that this was just a founding myth about the Jewish People. As the members of my
Bible class know so well, the historical accuracy of these two stories is not the point. There
must be some underlying message that we, as Jews, are supposed to learn here. And Rabbi
Talve cut right to the heart of the matter. She is correct; once we are able to give one child
away, it makes it easier and maybe more likely that we will come to sacrifice the other.

Rabbi Talve was speaking directly to the heart of Black Lives Matter. If we are able to look the
other way when young Black children and innocent Black men and women, like Michael Brown,
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are killed, then what can we expect when it is Jews who are
being shot in Pittsburg, Poway and as we face the rise of Antisemitism across this country?

If we don’t stand with those who lost their children in the myriad school shootings, how can we
expect a different reaction when Jews are being shot? If we don’t stand against racism, then
who will stand up for us when the hatred will ultimately be turned on Jews?

We all have learned at one time or another, that Antisemitism is the canary in the coal mine.
Jews are often the first to be attacked and then other groups soon follow.

Jews have a long and ancient history of anti-Jewish sentiment. Whenever something bad might happen, it was always easier to blame the Jews. This history has made us insular; we are closed off from the rest of society. We protect our own and when it is someone else being attacked, we keep our heads down lest the attackers turn on us.

The ADL knows better. They know that if we don’t fight against all forms of prejudice and
bigotry, then it is only a matter of time before we will find ourselves in the cross hairs. If we
don’t show up for injustice against any person at any time, be they black, brown, indigenous,
homosexual, transsexual, and yes even when the victims of hate are Arabs or those that might
look like Arabs; If we can’t show up to protect them, then who will there be who would stick up
for us? Bigots start their attacks by trying to fracture the relationships between the different
elements of society. As Martin Niemöller, in his famous poem noted that first they come
for others, and if we don’t protest on their account, then they will eventually come for
us and there will be no one to speak up to protect us.

I say this both as a Jew and as an American.

This country has become a great nation due to the diversity of our citizens. For almost all of our history, there have been those who first seek to stop immigration, demonizing refugees who look different. But every age of prosperity and growth in this country, it almost always happened when immigrants and refugees were made welcome.

We Jews like to think of ourselves as welcoming to all strangers, but last year, Heather Miller, synagogue president, Rabbinical student, Jewish mother, and Black woman, shared with us the many micro aggressions that Black Jews must face in our world today.

How do we feel when someone says, “Gee, you don’t look Jewish.”? But Black Jews all too often, hear that from other Jews! If we can’t accept the children that don’t look like us, we end up sacrificing our own children. We end up with children growing up and not wanting to be Jewish if they believe that the Judaism we teach through our actions, does
not stand up for Justice and diversity.

The Torah is clear; we must stand up for everyone or we risk losing it all. We must show up for every act of terror and racism or there will be no one to stand up for us. Injustice is injustice, bigotry is bigotry, hate is hate; we can’t let ourselves justify our own racism and bigotry because we delude ourselves that we are not like everyone else.

Ishmael and Isaac reunite to bury their father. The Torah does not tell us what they said to each other at that painful moment for both of them. They were separated by parents who thought the two boys could not get along. Abraham indeed did lose both his sons. Any child who dies in an act of violence in this country makes it easier for the next person who plots violence against children. Any adult who dies in an act of violence makes the next act of violence easier. It does not matter the race, gender, or sexual orientation of the first one to die. Every death matters and we need to care, to show our grief and to stand with the victims. Every act of bigotry matters and we need to share
their pain and stand with the victims. Every act of injustice matters and we need to stand with the victims. Or as the Rabbis say in the Talmud, “once the destroyer is set loose, it does not distinguish between those who are good or bad.”

My lesson today is that we need to care. To care for others in their distress so they will stand by us, as sisters and brothers, and not let hate drive us all apart. Let us look into our own souls and then be there to support, defend and stand up for truth, justice, life, and liberty for all.

May God be with us as we pursue Justice every day, as we say…..
Amen and Shabbat Shalom

Edited by Joel Leyden