From the heart of Texas and from deep within my own heart, I wish everyone a sweet 5779, Yom Teruah.
These Days of Judgment and Days of Remembrance will be particularly difficult for me this season because of the recent loss of my father. As I find myself one day away from my 65th birthday, my family has been blessed by his presence as long as we have, and my four sons – now all adults – have had the pleasure of growing up in the company of my parents for most of their lives. My wife’s parents, who were divorced, but who threw us one hell of a wedding, were not as fortunate. Her mother, Ruth, who loved me without reservation, tragically never met any of her grandchildren.
I grant that my level of sensitivity and emotion could be at an elevated level. As I grew up, my parents were certainly more secular than religious, and when we celebrated important Jewish holidays, we would invariably pile into our blue, Rambler station wagon and drive to Yonkers, NY, to join with my mother’s sister’s family, our Aunt Bev and Uncle Jerry, and our favorite cousins who knew and helped teach us the pace and process of prayer. Nothing was better than Seder at the Kupchan’s, although Uncle Jerry made it seem like there was never a logical conclusion.
Bev and Jerry are gone and I miss them, too.
It was somewhat weird seeing my father buried in a traditional manner, knowing that his Jewishness leaned toward the traditions and the Yiddishkeit rather than the strictures of dogma. My dear sister found his discharge papers from the Army which entitled him to be buried with military honors. His casket was draped with the American flag, the bugle call of “Taps” was played with perfection and an honor guard folded the flag with precision before kneeling before my mother and presenting it respectfully.
But it was difficult to hold back a chuckle I knew my father would appreciate since he had regaled me with stories about what a bad soldier he had been. Taking off from Ft. Dix in New Jersey “without official leave” to see his mother before he shipped off to Europe; he passed a test that would have enabled him to attend Officer Candidate’s School, but he declined, imagining that would have required him to spend more time in the service than he cared to; his unending seasickness when they crossed the Atlantic on a cargo ship that had mattresses for about half the men aboard; challenging an officer’s password when he was on patrol at a camp in Europe – my father had the wrong password; he just wasn’t your bronze star-caliber soldier. He didn’t storm the beaches of Normandy but as a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, he helped build temporary bridges over rivers in Germany that had been destroyed by bombardment.
So, if by chance, you might have stumbled across anything I have written for The Times, you have a pretty good feel for my worldview. In light of that perspective and with the sorrow of my father’s passing still just under the surface of my skin, the “best wishes” that have been offered up to the Jewish people during these Days of Judgment and Remembrance by some of the most odious figures in the world are striking me as especially hypocritical this year.
Take, for example, the Mayor of London, truly one of the greatest cities in the world, Sadiq Khan. He wants to “tackle the scourge of anti-Semitism” and “do whatever it takes to keep our Jewish community safe.” But this is a man who countenances “no go” zones in his city, who permits Sharia law and courts to trump British law in Muslim communities, he encourages an Al Quds Day march annually which takes place on the last Friday of Ramadan in which Muslims unite worldwide in solidarity against Israel and in support of the legitimate rights of Palestinians. Mayor Khan permits demonstrators to march with the flag of Hizballah in hand, considered by most civilized nations as a terrorist group although the UK distinguishes between its “political” and “military” wings. Shana Tovah, my Jewish brothers! I am tackling the scourge of anti-Semitism!
Or, how about Mohammad Javed Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran, who must be the winner of the Golden Boot for Duplicity. No one – with the possible exception of his best bud, John Kerry – is more skilled at mendacious pronouncements and taking umbrage when confronted with verbal inconsistencies. “As the sun gives way to the moon, I wish all my Jewish compatriots and Jews worldwide a very Happy New Year….” Jewish compatriots? What Jewish compatriots? The ones floating on rafts in the Mediterranean that he has driven into the sea? “As the raw uranium is refined by centrifuges into U-235 isotopes, I wish all my Iranian compatriots a very, very bad New Year.”
And we mustn’t forget one of Ayatollah Khameini’s and Bashar Assad’s best friends, the Great Election Meddler Himself, Vladimir Putin (he was a former KGB Agent, you know?).
In his holiday greetings, he acknowledged, “I must note with satisfaction that…Judaism take[s] an active part in the life of the state, excel in charitable activities, carry out high-demand projects in the field of education….” Such genuine feelings of warmth. This is the man who introduced Iran and the IRGC into Syria, who in effect looks the other way as the IRGC ships weapons south into Lebanon to Hizballah, who in effect has delivered sufficient power to Hizballah to enable them to assume control over Lebanon, all for the sake of his domestic consumption, so he can be perceived as restoring Russia as a world power. “I must note with satisfaction that…the Islamic Republic has taken an active part in the life of the Syrian Arab Republic, they excel in extinguishing civilians, carry out high-demand projects in the field of chemical experimentation….”It carries a similar flavor, don’t you think?
I mean, who is Erdogan, Jeremy Corbyn, and these other blatant anti-Semites trying to placate by posting their New Year greetings on Twitter? Why isn’t that nose-ringed censor, Jack Dorsey, who claims the mantle of a free-speech common carrier, but is the farthest thing from it, really clearing his platform from hateful speech? Because once you open that Pandora’s Box, Jack – once you make that first editorial deletion, you open yourself up, despite your denials before Congress, as an arbiter of content and the natural target of regulation.
Anyway, I freely admit it. Maybe I’m a bit hypersensitive this year. But I think if the old man was reading this right now (and at least I could count on him!), he’d agree with most of it, make a few critical comments, but above all, he’d say, “Just keep writing and I wouldn’t give a rap what anybody except you thinks about it!”
I’m sitting here wondering why you haven’t called me like you always do.