6 posts categorized "Heroes of Judaism"

Two Good "Yiddishe" Boys

Louie Armstrong Colin Powell
At the beginning of last century, in the emotional hotbed of New Orleans a child slave of the ghetto was born of a prostitute mother and “missing” father. He somehow stumbled into the attention of a financially poor but loving Russian Jewish immigrant family, the Karnofskys. This little fellow, with an appreciative, magnetic personality, attached himself to the father, to help him with his horse-and-wagon hauling business. The Karnofskys loved the child, took him in for dinners, including Shabbat, and provided more than bed and shelter. They provided him with the love he needed, and his first musical instrument that led this confused, hungry youngster onto worldwide fame — as a jazz performer, music innovator and worldwide ambassador for humanity. Louis Armstrong proudly spoke fluent Yiddish, from his childhood through his whole life, and always wore a Star of David around his neck.

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Sickser's back in the early 1950's was located on the corner of Westchester and Fox in South Bronx, and specialized in "everything for the baby" as its slogan ran. Swamped on day with loads of work and many customers, Mr. Sickser ran out of  the store and stopped the first youth he spotted on the street. "Young man,"  he panted, "how would you like to make a little extra money? I need some help  in the store. You want to work a little?"

The tall, lanky black boy  flashed a toothy smile back. "Yes, sir, I'd like some work." "Well then, let's get started."

The boy followed his new employer into the store. Mr.  Sickser was immediately impressed with the boy's good manners and demeanor, and made him a regular employee at the store. It was gratifying to find an employee with an almost soldier-like willingness to perform even the most menial of  tasks, and to perform them well. From the age of thirteen until his  sophomore year in college, this young man put in from twelve to fifteen hours  a week, at 50 to 75 cents an hour.

In 1993, in his position as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of  Staff, two years after he guided the American victory over Iraq in the Gulf War, General Colin Powell visited the Holy Land. Upon meeting Israel's  Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Jerusalem, he greeted the Israeli with the  word "Men kent reden Yiddish" (We can speak Yiddish). As Shamir, stunned, tried to pull himself together, the current Secretary Of State continued chatting in his second-favorite language. Colin Powell never forgot his early days working at Sickser's.

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Louie Armstrong and Colin Powell loved their "Yiddishe" roots. Unsung Jewish heroes like the Karnofskys and the Sicksers used their total color-blind love of their fellow human to help shape two of modern history's finest people.

Ode to the Anonymous Hero

Today is Memorial Day for Israel's fallen martyrs. There are hundreds of heroes' names missing from the memorial lists; these are the names of our fallen secret service warriors, who wage battles with our enemies deep behind enemy lines. Most people, even their loved ones, don't know who they were and what they did. They foiled hijackings, destroyed and undermined our enemies' sinister plans, and were part of Hashem's long arm of revenge. Words cannot describe the danger they exposed themselves to. I wrote this in their honor; it was difficult typing with so many tears in my eyes:

Ode to the Anonymous Hero

Al-Arabira Report - Jonathan Pollard to be Released

Al-Arabiya News Agency has now reported that Israel and the Palestinians have agreed via American brokerage to extend the peace talks. Part of the three-sided deal is that our cherished brother Jonathan Pollard will be released. We here at the Beams pray daily for his release, and we hope that Al-Arabiya's sources are accurate. Meanwhile, there's no confirmation of the report here in Israel.

Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers - Today

We owe them a debt that no material sum or commodity can repay.

Their blood spilled so that our blood can continue flowing in our veins.

The enemy's bullets and warheads never discerned between black Jews or white Jews, religious Jews or non-religious Jews, right-wing Jews or left-wing Jews. All were maimed and killed equally.

Our beloved fallen martyrs of Ashkenazic and Sefardic descent fought side by side. Kibbutzniks from the Shomer haTzair served in the same squads with bearded Yeshiva graduates. Ethiopian, Russian, and Israeli-born Jews went up in flames together in the same burning tanks.

What can be the most befitting memorial for them?

They died together. In their loving memory, may we live together. Decide that from this moment on, you'll love every fellow Jew no matter what. Let's all commit to fulfilling the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael in honor of our martyred soldiers of sacred memory. Our very future depends on it.

Judah Maccabee at West Point

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, from Israel Hayom via our dear friend Ted Belman and Israpundit

The legacy of Hanukkah – faith, patriotism, defiance of extreme odds and tenacity in the battle of liberty against tyranny – has underlined the American spirit since the early pilgrims, enhancing the unique foundation of the U.S.-Israel covenant: shared values.

For instance, the statue of Judah the Maccabee, the hero of the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian-Seleucid Empire, is displayed at the West Point Military Academy, the most prestigious U.S. military academy, founded in 1802. The statue of Judah the Maccabee, known for his principle-driven leadership and daring battle tactics, is displayed along with the statues of Joshua, David, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hector, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon – “the Nine Worthies.”

George Washington became acquainted with the spirit of the Maccabees, upon settling, in December (Hanukkah) 1777, at his new headquarters at Valley Forge, Penn., with ill-equipped, weary troops. Faced with a superpower, George III of Britain, Washington concluded that only a dramatic change could avoid a defeat. According to the diary entries of Louisa Hart, Washington told the Harts about a Jewish solider at Valley Forge who lit a Hanukkah candle and explained its significance. Washington’s reaction was: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it is long past ... It pleases me to think that miracles still happen." Six months later, on June 19, 1778, the Continental Army implemented the battle tactics of Judah the Maccabee, leaving Valley Forge in pursuit of the British, who were moving toward New York. Although the war would linger for five more years, Washington won a decisive victory.

Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were inspired by the Maccabees, proposing "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God" as the American official seal. Just like the Founding Fathers, the Maccabees were a tiny minority of “rebels” - condemned by the "loyalist/pragmatist" Jewish establishment - rebelling against an oppressive superpower. They prevailed thanks to their conviction-driven determination. They knew that swimming against the stream gets one closer to the source. The Maccabees were a role model for Paul Revere, who was referred to as "a modern day Maccabee" and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party, who realized that there were no free lunches for freedom-seeking nations.

"In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees’ battle cry, which adopted Moses’ battle cry against the builders of the Golden Calf. A literal translation of the battle cry is “Whoever trusts God; join me!” The Maccabees' sacrifice and lack of political correctness also inspired Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!"

In 2011, Hanukkah is still a living experience in the U.S. For example, the residents of Billings, Mont. celebrate Hanukkah in solidarity with the Jewish community of 40 families, and in protest of the 1993 vandals who broke the windows of Jewish homes that displayed Hanukkah menorahs. In response, more than 10,000 of the city’s residents put makeshift menorahs in their own windows. They persist, annually, in this ritual.

Hanukkah and the Maccabees have become an integral part of the American way of life, culturally and politically. Americans respect the legacy of the Maccabees, who fought the Syrian-Seleucid super-power, mostly, in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, in the Judean Desert and in Jerusalem. Judah the Maccabee’s own Valley Forge was at Beit El; his capital was Jerusalem; he scored dramatic victories in Beit Horon (over Seron), Hadashah (over Nicanor), Beit Zur (over Lysias) and Ma’aleh Levona (over Apolonius); he was defeated at Elazar and killed at Ba’al Hatzor – all are located beyond the “1967 Lines.”

The descendants of the Maccabees are not "occupiers" in the cradle of their own history. Hanukkah is not a holiday of "occupation," but a holiday of deliverance. Hanukkah is a holiday which highlights the moral high ground of Jews in their ancestral homeland.

Shimon the Maccabee - who succeeded Judah and Yonatan the Maccabees – articulated the Jewish territorial case when responding to an ultimatum by Antiochus, who demanded an end to the Jewish “occupation” of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Gezer and Ekron: "We have not occupied a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation," Shimon said.

Pressuring the Jewish state to withdraw from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria defies the American story. Either you are with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other defenders of liberty, or you provide – inadvertently – a tailwind to the forces of tyranny.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan

Esther Pollard granted her permission to the Beams to print the following letter - untouched and unedited - that she sent last week to Jonathan on the occasion of his birthday. We beg Hashem for Jonathan's speedy and miraculous release from imprisonment. Here goes:

Jerusalem, August 1, 2010 B”H

 My Beloved Jonathan,

I don’t really know how to write this letter. I want so badly to help you. I need to make you understand things that I barely understand.

What I do know is that we have spent a very, very long time trying to attack a problem logically, when that problem is totally resistant to logic.

 You have every right to be angry. You have every right to be depressed. You have every right to hate. And I certainly do not have any right to tell you otherwise or to try to mitigate your anger or your hate. Maybe they are necessary. Maybe they are a part of the divine plan.

 I am angry too, though I try not to dwell on my anger. I am frustrated and tired and worn out, and like you, have not been feeling well for so long that I really do not remember when I last felt well. Everything is a question of degree.

 If I get this letter done tonight, it looks like it will arrive for your secular birthday, if you are not yet home by then. So as my gift to you, why don’t I just try to speak what is in my heart, without varnish or sugar coating.

 If I did not believe in G-d; if I did not believe that we are souls having a human experience (as opposed to our being humans having a spiritual experience); if I did not believe in gilgul ha’nishamot (the reincarnation of souls); if I did not believe in Jewish History or the Jewish Prophesies; if I did not believe in the ultimate redemption of the Jewish People and the coming of Moshiach; if I did not believe in any of these, then I also would not believe in the concept of soul mates. Without belief in the concept of soul mates, and the clear understanding that I was born to be your helpmate, your ezer knegdo, your opposite half in this lifetime, then it could be said that it was my choice to marry you and my choice to take on a lifetime of travail and suffering instead of choosing an easier path by choosing another mate.

 Often I think about how my life looks through the eyes of someone who does not believe in G-d, in Jewish destiny, or in soul mates. I know people like that. Ones I have spoken with, tell me that they think I am pretty foolish to have made such poor choices and to have ended up in this not-married, not-single state of perpetual longing and endless suffering, coupled with endless hard work rolling the boulder uphill only to have it roll down again, and then to start all over again.  I have been told, by well-meaning meddlers, on numerous occasions, that I have or had so many talents and merits, why did I have to get involved with someone in prison? Better yet, with someone with a life sentence?

People who have no concept of eternity or of G-d’s absolute rule of the world, cannot fathom that I did not have a choice. That the only reason I was born into this life was to accompany you on your tragic/majestic journey from darkness (lots and lots of darkness) to light (o when o when will it appear! --- But appear it must!) 

People who have no concept of eternal life have no way to grasp that you volunteered for this mission long ago in the world of souls, and I volunteered to go with you. The sorrow, the frustration, the suffering, the anguish, the depression, the despair and the anger are actually fleeting in terms of eternity. But in terms of a human lifetime they have been overwhelming, relentless and unending. No one in their right human mind would knowingly volunteer to take on any lifetime that is this difficult. But as souls, we did. That is, you did. And I could not let you go it alone, so I did as well. But only to follow you.

 As you so aptly put it, not so long ago, we are both partly in prison and we are both partly free. That is how bound up in each other we are.

 Having said that, there are some differences in our perspective. Apparently those differences are what allow each of us to survive our respective Gehinoms.

 I don’t understand, and never did understand your ability and your will to keep fighting and fighting and fighting. I am not built that way. I give up. I don’t give up in despair or in defeat. I just pull back and hand it back to G-d.  That makes you angry. You don’t like when I say that. Ok, so for the last 10 years that I have been feeling that way, you and others kept pulling me back into the fight, into yet another initiative and another initiative and another attempt to move things forward and another interview and another TV show and another essay and another Bagatz and another lawsuit and another petition and another this, that and the other.

 Doing all these useless things has brought collateral results, but no progress on the main issue at hand. Each initiative has built us into better, stronger, more sensitive, believing Jews, with a much closer connection to the Almighty. Each initiative has created more public awareness. Each initiative has brought more people to pray, to participate, to engage and to earn their share in eternity by attaching to this mitzvah. Each initiative has had its effect in Heaven and someday, after 120 years, we will, B”H understand how all these things contributed in a major way to bringing the final redemption to the Jewish People and to the Land.

For now, we do not have that glimpse beyond the veil. For the moment, all we have is the sure knowledge that we are not in control. That this case is a cosmic quagmire that is impervious to human efforts. It is so resistant to all of the human remedies that have been attempted over the last 2 ½ decades that that in itself is miraculous—by that I mean, clearly supernatural.

 Any purely objective, non-cosmic look at the situation is mind-boggling. How is it that we have gone through endless campaigns, letters, petitions, lawsuits, demos, lobbying, etc etc for 25 years, and in those 25 years we have not moved forward one single centimeter? (Or one inch, if you prefer.) On the contrary, we have watched those who sought your demise from the outset, become more entrenched in their murderous positions. We have watched those who were indifferent, become more indifferent. We have watched those who were wantonly irresponsible and cruel, redouble their brazen irresponsibility and their calculated cruelty. In summary, even you, my love, must admit that what we have seen over the last 25 years is truly Biblical in proportion, and NOT natural!!

And that is the fact that even you, even in the Hellish pit of Snakes and Scorpions where you make your bed, even you must admit, this case is not following the natural course of events. It is a lightening rod for those whose raison d’être is the uprooting of the rule of Heaven. This case is the sine qua non of those who arrogate to rule in place of G-d. Or more aptly put, this case is the exclusive property (on both sides of the pond) of those who are convinced that they rule the world.

"So what?" you ask.

 So, we have to draw appropriate conclusions.

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