Attending Yom Kippur Services Online


Rabbi Milgram practices blowing the shofar as Kabbalah4all.com‘s leader David Aharon Curtis prepares to begin his service.

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, my ankle was too swollen and painful to even hop over to the car to attend  the services. That created a rare rabbinic opportunity for me: attending free High Holiday services on-line.

I did not know what to expect at all, as I had only accidentally tripped over the possibility, when researching a quote online earlier in that week. Here is how it works, at least with Kabbalah4all.com, and the golden-voiced, inclusive service leader, composer of Jewish music, David Aharon Curtis.

Everything on the website, including Shabbat and festival services year-round, is for free. I registered as a member, and downloaded the evening section of the High Holiday Prayerbook, (machzor). Before sundown, I logged in for the Rosh Hashanah evening service.

More after the jump.
What were the services like? The liberal, gender-inclusive services were led by Curtis from what looked like inside of his home, in front of a sweet setup of holiday candles, a menorah, pomegranate and shofar.

It turns out that David Aharon Curtis has been streaming services for eight years already — what a boon to those in hospice or otherwise homebound. Some, it seemed, even gathered in small minyanim (groups of 10 or so) in remote areas without synagogues, tuned in and were able to have a service in this way.

The prayer books, provided as PDF downloads are interlinear: The transliterations, English and Hebrew, are not opposite each other, but rather are in the learner-friendly line-by-line approach. There are also lovely spiritual kavvanot, contemplative explanations, written in the text before each prayer.

The leader rarely showed his face, so one could mostly focus on praying along with the service leader’s lovely voice. A few nature slides and pictures of a Torah or shofar dominated the screen.

In the video to the left you can see an example of the leader’s approach to the Shema, a central prayer in most Jewish services. It’s easy to follow along in the English and transliteration, the leader chants in the Hebrew and occasional Aramaic of the Kaddish, using mostly traditional and a few contemporary melodies. I recognized a few melodies as attributable to Debbie Friedman, of blessed memory. My husband, raised in South Africa, was delighted at the relative absence of talk and simple presence of authentic prayer.

As David Aharon Curtis pointed out in his brief talk at the end of the service, while one can have a sense of connection and community in an on-line service, it’s difficult to meet and mingle afterward. The approach does seems to be catching on, a wide variety of free live-streaming High Holiday service options come up in a key word search, among them the radio broadcasts from New York’s Temple Emanuel and Central Synagogue.

Nashuva, a post-denominational California community that meshes spirituality with social action, is live-streaming their Kol Nidre service, to led by Rabbi Naomi Levy at 9:45 pm tonight. A well-known author and actist, Rabbi Levy is author of several books including Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration. In addition, there are a growing number of synagogues and havurot providing Shabbat and holiday services on-line to members in good standing; these typically require a password for viewing.

For those who are housebound, or far from a congregation this Yom Kippur, or at any point in the Jewish year and your Jewish practice permits it, services on-line will be a great help.

$27 Million Raised at FIDF National Gala Dinner

— by Jen Glantz

$27 million was raised Tuesday night at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) National NY Gala Dinner where over 1,400 prominent business and philanthropic leaders from across the country gathered at the historic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to demonstrate their love and support for the soldiers of Israel. FIDF Chairman Emeritus Arthur Stark was the chair of the Gala, and author and nationally syndicated radio host Dr. Monica Crowley served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.

A special delegation from the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region participated in the Gala event. Among the delegation members was the Executive Director of the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region, Tzvia Wexler.

More after the jump.
Among the distinguished guests in attendance were FIDF National Chairman, Nily Falic; FIDF National President, Julian Josephson; FIDF National Director and CEO, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon; Former IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi; Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; Israeli-American luxury fashion designer, Elie Tahari; President of the New York Yankees, Randy Levine and his wife, Mindy; American real estate tycoon and media proprietor, Mort Zuckerman; and American sex therapist, media personality, and author, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.


Left to right: Former IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, Executive Director of the FIDF Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey Region, Tzvia Wexler, Ambassador Ron Prosor

One of the evening’s outstanding guests was Cpt. Ziv Shilon, a 25-year-old commander of the Givati Brigade, who just a couple of months ago was badly injured in a Hamas attack near the Gaza security fence, when an explosive device went off. Cpt. Shilon was also joined at the Gala by more than 30 soldiers and officers from various IDF units as well as soldiers from the United States Armed Forces, including Maj. Justin Constantine, a wounded U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

Notable among the donations were $5 million pledged by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein; $1 million pledged by the Genesis Philanthropy Group; $130,000 pledged by Elie Tahari; $100,000 pledged by Mort Zuckerman; $1.08 million pledged by FIDF National Board Member, Harry Gross; and $1.3 million pledged by National Board Member and Young Leadership Chairman Tony Felzen on behalf of FIDF NY Young Leadership. The Major League Baseball and the Yankee Foundation purchased dinner sponsorships.

The evening culminated with the heartfelt words shared by bereaved mother, Nelly Barak, who tragically lost her son, Hanan Barak Z”L, who was a tank commander, in 2006. Hanan and another soldier were killed when a group of terrorists fired an RPG at his tank and then abducted his soldier, Gilad Shalit, that was released last October after five years of captivity by Hamas in Gaza.

The funds raised during the evening will provide services like academic scholarships to former combat soldiers, financial support for soldiers in-need and Lone Soldiers from around the world, weeks of rest and recreation for entire IDF units, as well as educational, cultural, and recreational facilities. The evening was an opportunity to pay tribute to the State of Israel and to send a message of love and support to the brave men and women in uniform.

Tomorrow: Multi-Religious Pray-In For Climate At The White House

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Interfaith Moral Action on Climate will hold tomorrow (Tuesday) a multi-religious Pray-in for the Climate at the White House. The Pray-in will gather at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, three short blocks from the White House. Speakers there will include

  • Jacqueline Patterson, IMAC steering committee and climate point person for the NAACP;
  • Imam Johari Malik, the “Green Imam” of Washington;
  • Diane Randall, exec of the Friends Committee on National Legislation;
  • Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and
  • Rev. Bob Edgar, former Congressman, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches, and now CEO of Common Cause.

More after the jump.
At the White House Pray-in itself, leaders of various religious communities will speak from their spiritual truth and from diverse Scriptures in a ceremony that will move from Calls to Prayer into three aspects of religious commitment:

  • Celebration of the Sacrednss of Earth
  • Lamentation for the Wounds of Eath
  • Commitment to Healing Action

Some will then choose an act of prayerful civil disobedience, while others will choose a stance of prayerful witness.

For months, various politicians have been warning us of the dire effects on our grandchildren of the federal deficit and insisting that when the Fiscal Cliff arrives this winter we must drastically cut Federal spending on schools, our infrastructure of bridges and sewers and railroads, medic aid, and renewable energy.

For me, grandchildren are not a political abstraction. I have five of them, ranging from three years old to twelve. When I imagine their futures, I am much more worried about how empty-headed education, worsening health, a rotting infrastructure, and especially more disasters like Superstorm Sandy will affect them.  

Much more dangerous than the Fiscal Cliff is the Climate Cliff we are facing, as the growing number of extreme weather events — superstorms, fierce floods, drastic droughts — wound us and warn us.

Our religious communities should join with labor unions, small businesses, PTA’s, coops, neighborhood associations, and our college faculty and students to demand a set of changes that will sow the seeds of greater change, by cutting the power of the Carbon Lords and committing the President and Congress to vigorous action. If we go over the Climate Cliff now, my grandchildren — our grandchildren — will live in misery and suffering.

Christie And King Angry Over Lack Of Aid For Sandy Victims


More after the jump.
Last Wednesday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie held a press conference and charged the House of Representatives for not voting on the $60 billion disaster relief package for his state and the other ones hit by Hurricane Sandy:

There’s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocence victims: The House Majority and their Speaker, John Boehner.

This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. National disasters happen in red states and blue states, and states with Democratic Governors and Republican Governors.

We respond to innocent victims of natural disasters not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans. Or at least we did until last night.

Last night, politics was placed before our oaths to serve our citizens. For me, it was disappointing and disgusting to watch.

In an interview for Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom”, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) also slammed his own party members:

All we’re saying is treat us the same everybody else has been treated. And why the Republican party has this bias against New York, bias against New Jersey, bias against the northeast? They wonder why they’re becoming a minority party? Why we’ll be the party of the permanent minority? What they did last night was so immoral, so disgraceful, so irresponsible. We’re supposed to be the party of family values, and you have families starving, families suffering, families spread all over living in substandard housing. This was a disgrace.

Two Philadelphians To Join National Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame


Steve Bilsky and Randy Grossman
National Jewish Hall of Fame 2013 Inductees

— by Alan Freedman

Two athletes with ties to Philadelphia, Steve Bilsky and Randy Grossman, will be inducted into The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame & Museum on April 21, 2013. Steve Bilsky, a star basketball player at Penn in the 70’s and the current Athletic Director at Penn, and Randy Grossman, who attended Haverford High School and was a three-year starter at tight end for Temple, are among the inductees in the Class of 2013.

Their biographies follow the jump.
As a basketball player at Penn, Steve Bilsky was a three-time All-Ivy League guard and captain of the school’s best team in its history in 1970-71. In his current position as Penn’s Athletic Director, Bilsky has expanded activities, competition and facilities for the school’s numerous men’s and women’s teams and its recreation programs. Bilsky played on the ’70-’71 nationally ranked Quaker team (28-1), that was considered one of the all-time greatest teams in school history. In his final two seasons as Penn’s point guard, his teams had a 53-3 record.

Randy Grossman was an outstanding tight end at Temple in the early 70’s and was named to the AP All-America third team as a senior in 1973; he helped the Owls to a 9-1 record that season, the best in Owls’ history. Grossman earned All-east honors and was invited to play in the North-South game. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent and helped them to win four Super Bowls – he caught a touchdown pass in Pittsburgh’s 21-17 victory over Dallas in Super Bowl X.

The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame & Museum, located in Commack, New York, is dedicated to honoring Jewish athletes, coaches, broadcasters and others who have distinguished themselves in the world of sports, an area of accomplishment not often associated with the Jewish people.

Aid From Israel!.. to NY and NJ

Israel Flying Aid, the Israeli global humanitarian organization, which was first to land in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, has been distributing large supplies of gas to hospitals, food, batteries and generators to Hurricane Sandy victims.

“We have many years of disaster relief experience,” said Israel Flying Aid North American Operations Manager Moti Kahana.  “Israel Flying Aid, in having Israelis on the ground here in New York and New Jersey, have made Israel the only foreign nation to provide humanitarian assistance to the US during this disaster.  We are working in coordination with FEMA, local police, the American Red Cross and Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.”

More after the jump.
Passover Food Box Distribution in Lod 2012Kahana said that most of the efforts had been donated by Israelis living in the US, and this enabled gas to be distributed to hospitals in New York and New Jersey.

Joel Leyden, an Israel Flying Aid Operations Specialist who was with the IFA in Haiti, has been working with the Greater Hartford Jewish Community to distribute both food and generators on Long Island.

“We had a convoy of food and generators move out of the Greater Hartford area early yesterday morning,” said Leyden.  “The food had been donated by Panera Bread and Dunkin Donuts in the Hartford, Manchester Connecticut area.  This food was distributed to hurricane victims on the south shore of Long Island, the Nassau County Police, the Free-port Fire Department and the Red Cross Shelter which is set up at Nassau Community College.”

Leyden said that when they spotted hundreds of people lined up at gas stations to pour gas into their containers, they would get out of their cars and feed these people as they waited.  The donuts and bread created smiles and positive moods which replaced the trauma of suffering in the dark and cold, he said.

“We are so very proud to see you, to welcome you to New York,” said Dr. Jason Mallin, who normally practices neurology at North Shore University Hospital but was now volunteering with the Nassau County Department of Health.  “We read about Israel and the great work you did in Haiti.  We have thousands here that need you.  It’s awesome that you are here!”

Michael Duarte, a Red Cross volunteer from California who was supervising the Long Island shelter, hugged the Israel Flying Aid team as they arrived.

“We had some bad press as a result of misunderstandings,” said Duarte.  People in Staten Island, New York were looking for us but due to a New York State law, we could not start operations until after three days.  We are now operating at full capacity throughout New York City and this Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College with over 900 clients.  These people have lost their homes.  Lost everything.  We are here for them and so very pleased to receive your good help.”

Duarte, who hadn’t slept in three days, had coordinated a first class shelter and his staff could not have been more professional.  Sleeping cots, Red Cross blankets, a cafeteria and even a play area for children had been carefully put into place. The fresh food from Israel Flying Aid was served as dinner that evening.

Super storm Hurricane Sandy, which was also referred to as Frankenstorm as it became one huge storm from three separate systems, slammed New York, New Jersey and the southern Connecticut shore with 100 mph winds.  The devastation was historic as over 100 people perished, thousands of homes were destroyed and millions were left without electricity.

“As Israelis, we know how to react to such disasters,” said Kahana.   “We are trained in the military to be prepared and ready at a moment’s notice.  This edge is what enables us to go places where others don’t and get the job done with little or no bureaucracy.  We are proud to help the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut communities, people who have provided assistance to Israel throughout the years.  What we critically need now is donations for our staff and volunteers to continue their life saving efforts as temperatures drop and people critically need generators and fuel for heat.”

Israel Flying Aid, which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that assists global communities after earthquakes and other natural and man made disasters, have saved lives in Japan, Haiti, Iraq, Turkey, South Sudan and the US after Hurricane Katrina.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Vote for a leader on climate change

— by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast — in lost lives, lost homes and lost business — brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief.

The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods — something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable.

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

Here in New York, our comprehensive sustainability plan — PlaNYC — has helped allow us to cut our carbon footprint by 16 percent in just five years, which is the equivalent of eliminating the carbon footprint of a city twice the size of Seattle. Through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group — a partnership among many of the world’s largest cities — local governments are taking action where national governments are not.

More after the jump.


TPM2012: “The grassroots progressive group ClimateSilence.org is bringing Sandy into the presidential campaign in two of its most important battlegrounds — Ohio and Virginia — in the final stretch toward Election Day.

The group is running a TV ad on cable in key markets in both states built around a Romney quip in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention that dismissed Obama’s talk of climate change. While Romney speaks — and the sound of laughter from his Republican audience can be heard — footage from Sandy plays.”

Leadership Needed

But we can’t do it alone. We need leadership from the White House — and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. “The benefits (of that plan) will be long- lasting and enormous — benefits to our health, our economy, our quality of life, our very landscape. These are actions we can and must take now, if we are to have ‘no regrets’ when we transfer our temporary stewardship of this Earth to the next generation,” he wrote at the time.

He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

I believe Mitt Romney is a good and decent man, and he would bring valuable business experience to the Oval Office. He understands that America was built on the promise of equal opportunity, not equal results. In the past he has also taken sensible positions on immigration, illegal guns, abortion rights and health care. But he has reversed course on all of them, and is even running against the health-care model he signed into law in Massachusetts.

If the 1994 or 2003 version of Mitt Romney were running for president, I may well have voted for him because, like so many other independents, I have found the past four years to be, in a word, disappointing.

In 2008, Obama ran as a pragmatic problem-solver and consensus-builder. But as president, he devoted little time and effort to developing and sustaining a coalition of centrists, which doomed hope for any real progress on illegal guns, immigration, tax reform, job creation and deficit reduction. And rather than uniting the country around a message of shared sacrifice, he engaged in partisan attacks and has embraced a divisive populist agenda focused more on redistributing income than creating it.

Important Victories

Nevertheless, the president has achieved some important victories on issues that will help define our future. His Race to the Top education program — much of which was opposed by the teachers’ unions, a traditional Democratic Party constituency — has helped drive badly needed reform across the country, giving local districts leverage to strengthen accountability in the classroom and expand charter schools. His health-care law — for all its flaws — will provide insurance coverage to people who need it most and save lives.

When I step into the voting booth, I think about the world I want to leave my two daughters, and the values that are required to guide us there. The two parties’ nominees for president offer different visions of where they want to lead America.

One believes a woman’s right to choose should be protected for future generations; one does not. That difference, given the likelihood of Supreme Court vacancies, weighs heavily on my decision.

One recognizes marriage equality as consistent with America’s march of freedom; one does not. I want our president to be on the right side of history.

One sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific evidence and risk management above electoral politics.

Of course, neither candidate has specified what hard decisions he will make to get our economy back on track while also balancing the budget. But in the end, what matters most isn’t the shape of any particular proposal; it’s the work that must be done to bring members of Congress together to achieve bipartisan solutions.

Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan both found success while their parties were out of power in Congress — and President Obama can, too. If he listens to people on both sides of the aisle, and builds the trust of moderates, he can fulfill the hope he inspired four years ago and lead our country toward a better future for my children and yours. And that’s why I will be voting for him.  

Presidential Campaign Fail To Vet Their Supporters

The Obama and Romney campaigns are both being attacked today having failed to vet their list of supporters.

Meanwhile, Romney has similar problems of his own:

  • Dr. John Willke is the doctor who misinformed Rep. Todd Aiken that women who are victims of “legitimate rape” do not become pregnant because their bodies “shut down” due to the trauma. Aiken is under pressure to abandon his US Senate campaign against Claire McCaskill in Missouri for having given voice to such an ignorant, misogynistic point of view. Dr. Willke told The Telegraph that he had a private meeting with Mitt Romney at his Cincinnati home last October and that Romney thanked him for his support and told him, “we agree on almost everything.”

    The 87-year-old endorsed Mr. Romney’s bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and was one of his official campaign surrogates. “I am proud to have the support of a man who has meant so much to the pro-life movement,” Mr. Romney said at the time.

  • As we reported in June, the GOP selected Yossi Gestetner as their “Jewish Outreach Director” in New York. As reported by The Jewish Channel and Vos Iz Neias, “The newly appointed Director of Jewish Outreach for New York State’s Republican party has resigned from his position after just eight days in office, calling himself a distraction to the party.” The distraction? Espousing anti-Zionist positions, among others.

    As Vos Iz Neias notes,

    “According to a report by The Jewish Channel, Gestetner’s resignation came less than thirty minutes after Josh Rubin, a reporter for NY1, asked State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox about an investigation of Gestetner by The Jewish Channel, which conducted an hour long on-camera interview with Gestetner. During that interview, Gestetner discussed several issues that may put him at odds with both the Republican party and many of New York State’s 1.6 million Jewish residents, which include his being a spokesman at a fundraiser to benefit an alleged child molester, his controversial stance on referring suspected cases of child abuse to a rabbi before alerting the authorities, his views on government assistance programs and his work for Torah True Jews Against Zionism, an anti-Israel organization that states that Zionism is contrary to Torah Judaism.”

 

“Severely Conservative” Governor Sweeps All Five Primaries

According to Prof. Andrew S. Tananbaum:

With only Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul as official opponents, Mitt Romney swept to easy victories in five primaries yesterday. Nevertheless, even with such weak opponents, in only one state, Connecticut, did he crack 2/3 of the vote, and there just barely with 67.4%. And this in the region of the country where he is best known and where he is judged by how he governed in Massachusetts rather than by what he was forced to say to placate the base on the primary campaign trail.

Newt Gingrich having focused his efforts on Delaware and only garnering 27% of the vote is said to be reconsidering his campaign although he continues to rally for support in North Carolina which votes a week from Tuesday. (See map below the jump.)

As for Ron Paul, inTrade gives him about a 3.5% chance of carrying his home state of Texas which does not vote until May 29, so he’ll presumably continue his quixotic campaign until the bitter end.

Updated map follows the jump.
Color Key  

Romney: Orange.
Santorum: Green.
Gingrich: Purple.
Paul: Gold.
Rick Perry: Blue.
No Votes: Black.
No vote yet: Grey.

Trivia Contest

  • Find the counties won by Rick Perry.
  • Find the counties where Ron Paul tied Rick Santorum.

Running, Racism and Resentment


— by Rabbi Avi Shafran

When I recounted seeing a small group of unusually dressed men in shul last Sunday in Staten Island and realizing that they were trying to catch a minyan before participating in the New York Marathon (which begins in that borough), my daughter asked me if any of them had a chance of winning the race.

“Nah,” I said. “It’ll be a Kenyan.” Four of the New York race’s past ten men’s race winners, after all, hailed from that African country. Actually, make that five now. (Congratulations, Geoffery Mutai.) A fellow Kenyan came in second.

My daughter’s face, I thought, evidenced some surprise, as if I had espoused some rank racism. So I explained that Kenyans seem particularly physically endowed for long-distance running. Kenyans, that is, and Ethiopians (another citizenry with disproportionate wins in marathons) who belong to the lithe and limber Kalenjin tribe.

More after the jump.
If believing that different populations have different abilities constitutes racism, I guess I am a racist. But the word’s pejorative meaning is more properly reserved for assigning negative human character traits-like dishonesty, laziness, drunkenness, or untrustworthiness-to particular racial or ethnic groups. People have free will, of course, and every individual should be judged on his own merits.

Recognizing that there are differences in aptitudes among different peoples, however, should be no more objectionable than noting physical differences, like the fact that Hutu tribesmen are stocky and relatively short while their Tutsi neighbors are lanky and taller. Or that one doesn’t come across many Ashkenazi (or for that matter Sephardi) fullbacks.

Even excellence in mental attributes, like the commonly perceived abilities of Asians in mathematics, or of Jews in business or science, should not be seen as insulting others. Even if the perceptions are accurate, they are of limited import.

The Torah refers to the Jewish people as “a wise nation” but that doesn’t mean we’re all intellectually gifted. Even Jews who aren’t the brightest candles in the menorah have a Divine mission on earth no less precious than the Rogachover down the block. And Chazal’s honorifics customarily run not to words like “genius” or “brilliant” but to ones like “righteous” and “G-d-fearing.” That’s what counts.

It’s plausible, of course, that Chinese or Jewish intellectual accomplishments-or Kalenjin dominance of marathon running-are due to something other than genes; cultural and environmental factors certainly play important roles. What’s more, even fact-supported stereotypes are becoming increasingly irrelevant, as gene pools become more jumbled with each generation.  

Still, some population-associated abilities remain, and some people seem to have a hard time with that. They waste precious time feeling bad for themselves and resentful of others, losing sight of a grand life-truth: It doesn’t matter what abilities we possess; what matters is what we do with them.

Similarly, some people of modest means resent the more affluent. They may suspect (as do some affluent people themselves) that prosperity is the result of superior intelligence. (This, despite the ample and readily available evidence to the contrary.) As believing Jews, though, we should know that economic fortunes are determined wholly by Divine will; they ultimately remain beyond logic and inscrutable to us mortals.

Which thought leads, inevitably, to the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Some among the crowds in lower Manhattan and their counterparts in other cities may well have worthy complaints and clear goals. But what one hears most loudly and most commonly (as even a few minutes at Zuccotti Park were more than enough to demonstrate to me) is simple resentment of the fact that wealthy people… are wealthy. Why, many protesters seem to be saying, and angrily, them and not us?

What a sad way to waste life. Instead of identifying one’s own blessings and setting oneself to the task-the privilege-of utilizing them as fully as possible for as long as possible, those demonstrators self-immolate in the heat of their anger over not being someone else.

But they are a good spur for the rest of us to remember that what matters in this world is not what we have, physically or monetarily, but what we choose.

Most of us wouldn’t waste a millisecond envying a Kenyan’s speed or stamina. None of us should waste even half that time resenting what someone else has.

© 2011 AMI MAGAZINE

[Rabbi Shafran is an editor at large and columnist for Ami Magazine]