Jews From Islamic Lands Speak on Muslim Immigration

The president’s travel ban for people from seven Muslim countries (now temporarily suspended by federal judges) has provoked outcries from the liberal community in the United States. Rallies and other acts of dissent have sprung up in most major cities. I last wrote about the response to the travel ban in the general Jewish community. I now seek to learn more from Jews who have lived in Muslim countries. [Read more…]

Stand Against Hate Rally

Stand Against Hate Rally. Photo: Philly.com.

Stand Against Hate Rally. Photo: Philly.com.

On Thursday, March 2, Independence Mall in Philadelphia was filled with supporters of the “Stand Against Hate” rally.

The speakers included Governor Tom Wolf, Mayor Jim Kenney, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Rabbi Avraham Shmidman of Lower Merion Synagogue, and Rabbi David Strauss of Main Line Reform.

Also speaking were Nancy Baron Baer of the ADL and members of the inter-faith community. [Read more…]

What Makes America Great

U.S. Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans.

U.S. Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans.

Seventy-five years ago, on February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans with Executive Order 9066. This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire West Coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Nearly 130,000 mainland Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated from their West Coast homes during the spring of 1942. No civilians were found to be agents of espionage.

There has been a spike in hate speech since the November elections, which has liberated people to say in public what was not acceptable before the campaign. [Read more…]

A Jewish Response to the Ban on Immigration

Seven days into the new administration, the new president issued an executive order against refugees, immigrants and Muslims. It was ironic that this action took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Police facing demonstrators at protest at Philadelphia International Airport. Photo by Hannah Lee.

Police facing demonstrators at protest at Philadelphia International Airport.
Photo by Hannah Lee.

Organizations, clergy and regular citizens like me mobilized with an ad hoc protest rally at the Philadelphia airport. We were told to stay off the sidewalk and to congregate in the traffic lane outside the international arrivals hall. Frankly, I was not concerned for my safety until I saw the line-up of police. [Read more…]

A Balanced Life, Redux

Now that we’ve passed another Day of Judgment, we can ask ourselves what are we going to do with the life that we’ve been granted? Do we live up to our values, our ideals? Since my teens, I’ve been passionate about worldly causes, but it has always been a challenge to maintain the delicate balance between the sacred and the secular. [Read more…]

Book Review: “The Devil’s Diary”

Topping the highlights of an exciting career as an FBI agent, Robert Wittman would include his adventure tracking down the long-lost private journal of Alfred Rosenberg, the man who, as the Nazi Party’s chief ideologue, laid the philosophical foundations for the Holocaust.  He spoke at Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr.

The Devil’s Diary is a game-changing true World War II narrative wrapped in a riveting detective story.  Wittman and his co-author, journalist David Kinney, mine the diary’s long-hidden contents to create a ground-breaking, page-turning account of the Nazi rise to power, the Final Solution, and Germany’s brutal occupation of the Soviet Union.

 There is also local historical resonance for the book.  Dr. Robert Kempner, the Jewish refugee from Germany who served with the American prosecutors at the Nuremburg trials, owned a house in Landsdowne, PA  and he spirited away 29 boxes of original documentation (“weighing more than 8,000 pounds”) from governmental jurisdiction.  Also, in case you wonder about the lineage for Alfred Rosenberg, the “devil” in the book title, Kempner kept Rosenberg’s personal ahnentafel, a family tree drawn up to prove that he had no Jewish relatives.

When asked how is life after retiring from the FBI and Wittman responded that it’s better!  He now does private investigative work and, whereas, the FBI only handles criminal cases, he can now handle civil cases such as for Rosenberg’s diary. Both of his sons have helped with his investigative work, including the Rosenberg case, but they’ve both moved on to separate careers.  So, does he need a student intern?  Yes, but risks are rather high, so he has not hired any other students.

HaShoah Book: “Fever at Dawn”

In the new book, Fever at Dawn, a fictionalized account of his parents’ courtship, the Hungarian film director Péter Gárdos writes that after surviving the worst of the Nazi death camps, Lili Reich wanted to convert out of Judaism (as if it would have mattered to the Nazis). Her suitor, Miklós Gárdos, was an atheist anyway, so he sought out a Catholic priest in a remote little church to do so. They had started out as pen pals, after Miklós sought out all the Hungarian women recuperating in Sweden, under age 30.

Rabbi Emil Kronheim heard about their intent, through the letters of Lili’s friend, and he arrived to stop them with a creative offer: he would marry them under a chuppah in a synagogue in Stockholm. He’ll foot the bill for the ceremony, the clothes, and a reception for their friends. He even promised the Red Cross would be obligated to provide them with a room of their own afterwards. They accepted.

I believe the facts are all true, but the conversations are re-created from their diaries. A delightful story and an unique take on the Holocaust memoirs.