Sunday, December 12, 2010

Your Money or Your Life?

I’m stuck between two generations, my parents’ who emigrated from Europe and had $98 between them on their honeymoon and now their grandchildren’s who have every iPhone app and life enhancing accessory that the merchandising world has to offer. My family is just a microcosm of how so many Jewish families have evolved. Parents have become so obsessed with giving their children what they didn’t have growing up that they forgot to give them what they did have: appreciation for things, a work ethic, respect and sense of responsibility toward the greater Jewish community and mankind.

I cannot help but cry over the suicide of 46-year-old Mark Madoff who was found hanged yesterday by a dog’s leash attached to a ceiling pipe. The American dream has turned into a nightmare for many because of greed and a disconnect between what Judaism really has to say about money and how a new generation never inherited the right lessons along with their trust funds.

To start, there is nothing wrong with making money. In fact, the Jewish view of wealth is set forth in the first chapter of the Bible in a description of the Garden of Eden wherein it is said that the “gold of this land is good.” Materialism and wealth is validated from the onset. Even God promises Abraham great riches and many of the patriarchs and prophets were wealthy. But, money was always supposed to be a means to an end, not the end. It was never meant to be worshiped by Jews, but used to make this world a better place. The giving of charity is fundamental to the entire structure of Judaism: “You shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand to your needy brother.” It is also taught that he who turns his eyes from alms-giving is as if he worshiped idols...for if one values his money more than human lives, then he has undoubtedly turned his money into a god.

Still, it’s so hard not to get caught up in this world of plenty. This time of year is a perfect example. As we walk through the malls during the holiday season massive amount of “stuff” cries out to us “buy me, buy me.” We feel as if our own self-worth and happiness are measured by what we have instead of who we are. Our lives have become more ornamented than over-decorated Christmas trees as we smother our organic true selves with superficiality. It is thus no surprise that the moral spine of a nation would snap just as an overburdened branch.

In this week’s Bible portion we read how Joseph brings his brothers to Egypt where they could enjoy all its riches and survive the famine. But he does not let them live in its capital fearing they’d become tainted by the rampant idol worship there. He didn’t want them, especially their children, giving up God for gold. For life is not about living off the fat of the land, it’s about nurturing and cultivating the ground we walk on. Will your children reap in joy what you have planted?

There is a Talmudic story of a man who was passing along a road when he saw an old man planting a carob tree. “How long before that tree bears fruit?” asked the passerby.
“Seventy years,” replied the old man.
“Will you be alive in seventy years to enjoy the fruit?” the traveler asked.
To that the old man answered, “When I was born, this world was filled with carob trees planted by my ancestors. And likewise will I plant trees for my children.”

My dear friends, what proverbial fruit are you planting for your children's future? Will those fruit hang from the Tree of Life?

Madoff was the quintessential idol worshiper. Money and assets, boats and houses, fine dining and status, were more important to him than people and human lives. These status symbols meant to raise him above everyone helped dig his own son’s grave. The desolate and fatal field that he tilled should prove to us all how poor a fertilizer gold truly is.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Don't Want To Look Like Them!

Several years ago, a book came out entitled, When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home. Although the book was primarily about travel, the title struck me as a metaphor for life’s journey. The question is: What and who do we want to look like at our journey’s end?

When I first moved to New York, I often wondered why people were so mean and why it seemed impossible to ask anyone for a favor. Eventually, I began to deduce that maybe these people used to be nice, but after meeting so many obstacles, mean-spirited characters and "no's,” they learned to become as hard and heartless as the people they once despised.

It's hard to know what to do when people don't behave kindly towards you. Do you forgive them and move on? Do you hold a grudge? Do you seek revenge? Do you rub it in their face when you succeed, to spite their condescension and efforts to squelch your rise? Do you become like all those faces I've seen where the spirit of kindness has been replaced by godless Grinch-like frowns?

I have come to realize that the big city, too, is a metaphor for our life’s journey. God sends us to this earth with our talents, our desires and our ambitions. He also sends us tests along the way which we can use to refine us or to redefine us. And as we abandon ourselves and succumb to those who try and change us, the miles between us and where we came from become ever wider

And then there are those people who drove us away from home, the ones who saw us as small and insignificant (most likely because they were) and so we strove to prove them wrong and make it big. By hook or by crook, we made it our goal not to return home without a hero’s welcome.

But will you look like your passport photo when it’s time to go home?

I remember as a little girl my mother used to send me to school spotlessly clean with two ponytails which were so precisely divided as if measured by an engineer. I always returned looking as if I had ridden a roller coaster during a tsunami. “Can’t you ever come home the way I sent you?” she often asked me. Perhaps only now I’m really qualified to answer that philosophical question. Yes!

After so many years in NYC, I acknowledge that being nice is a wimpy survival tool. But on the other hand, if we start to become like all those people who wouldn’t give us the time of day or conspired so that we would fail then they won just the same. Either way they have controlled who we become. So should we be mean to people who were mean to us and become “bitches” in the making? I think, no. As tempting as it may be, I just won’t do it for the very simple reason that I just don’t want to look like them.

In this week’s Bible reading we read about Joseph’s reuniting with his brothers. Now as second-in-command to Pharaoh he could have easily gotten even with his brothers for selling him into slavery and nearly killing him. Instead of doing so, he cries before them and tells them not to feel bad about what they did to him as it was all part of God’s plan.

Interestingly, the Bible tells us that Joseph was very handsome and scholars teach that he looked very much like his father Jacob. Yet the Bible never speaks about Jacob’s looks. The answer is that Joseph’s beauty was a reflection of his pure soul and it was in that manner that he resembled his father. He never let anyone or anything diminish his light. He chose to forgive instead of hate; he chose to help instead of hurt; he chose to return “home” even better than God sent him out on his journey to the big city. How about you?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Can See The Light

I was on a ferry in Connecticut 15 years ago when a man jumped overboard and committed suicide. My heart ached for that stranger whose name I did not know. The tragic episode made me deeply question how cruel and sad a world we must live in that some people feel life is not worth living. It made me question my own life and wonder if anything could drive me to such despair if the blessings were plucked out of my existence one by one. How does life become so black that one can no longer see the light at all? At which point does death start looking prettier than life?

I’m by no means a psychologist, but I think part of the problem is that we were suckled on fraudulent notions of what life is all about and grew up on fairytales that promised “happily ever after” endings. We are taught that if we behave we will be rewarded and if we do wrong we will be struck by the plague. But then life happens and we are ill equipped to discover that it isn’t always fair, that good guys don’t get the breaks, and that the pie in sky can leave you with a serious case of indigestion.

From disappointment to disappointment we hop along as the sun begins to set and retract its warmth only to be replaced by chilly intimidating shadows. The last place we can find to warm our hearts and hands is over the roaring fire called hope, without which the darkness becomes a gravitational abyss from which we cannot extricate ourselves.

Interestingly, it is at this time of year when the nights are longest and darkness seems to prevail that we read about the story of Joseph, who found himself in the darkness of the pit into which his brother’s cast him and then later in the darkness of Pharaoh’s dungeon. What truly did he have to live for? One day he was the beloved favorite son of Jacob; the next day his brothers sold him into slavery.

Joseph had grown up on the fairytales of his own dreams, which saw him ruling over his brothers. But from the purview of the pit he saw no “happily ever after” ending for himself. They had stripped him of his coat of many colors, also taking from him his pride, his innocence, and the years he could have been by his father’s side. In some measure they killed everything about him, except hope. Luckily, hope knows not shackles or taskmasters or pits or self pity—it sees only the light. The Bible teaches us something very interesting about Joseph’s attitude throughout his great suffering. The dungeon to which he is condemned is called “Beit Hasohar,” the “house of light” Even in the depths of a dark dungeon, Joseph maintained his faith in God, he remained optimistic and hopeful and he created his own “light.”

We must learn to do the same as we go through our own trials and tribulations. Instead of waiting in despair to find the light, BE the light! With laser-like intensity keep hope shining until it cuts right through the “dungeon” wall. It is a sin to succumb to despair and it is idol worship to believe that life is only worth living when we are riding high.

No, life is not about having fairytale endings. It’s about facing the hardships with grace, elevating the lowest moments instead of letting them bring you down; it’s about realizing that no matter what is taken from you, they can never take YOU. It’s about believing relentlessly that the sun never sets if it lives inside of you.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Eh, She’s Not for Me!

I had a good laugh today when I read that a Taiwanese woman was so disillusioned with the men in her city that she married--herself. The question I ask is, "Who gets to keep the house in case of a divorce?"

It’s not easy being a woman on the blind date circuit, especially in big cities. In “New York, single women outnumber single men by more than 210,000. In the Philadelphia area and greater Washington, D.C., single women outnumber single men by 50,000.”1 Thus, it’s no wonder that a woman spends seven hours in the mirror before a blind date and then, after a whole night of listening to an egotistical man speak only about himself and his ex-wife and turning you into his therapist, a dejected woman returns home to a freezing liter of Haagen-Dazs and a hot shower wherein the pretenses of such nights and layers of makeup gradually clog up the drain.

Women begin questioning, “Will I ever meet anyone?” “Is it me or them?” “Why should I bother anymore?” All these failed dates begin to shape how they see themselves as women. One guy thinks they talk too much, so they tone it down; then, the next guy thinks they have no conversation. It comes to a point where women just don’t know who to be anymore. Then your friends all advise, “Just be yourself.” We would, if we remembered who we were to begin with. All these interludes eat away at us like Hannibal Lecter and what’s left is usually unrecognizable and bitterly unappetizing.

Men, too, have it hard as their cojones are cut off by today’s superwomen who often make more bucks and scream sexual harassment when the guy opens the car door for them, those vain women who never met a mirror they didn’t like. Men also get put off by obnoxious gold diggers—you know the kind—those graduates from the Ivana Trump School of Mergers and Acquisitions who are trained to want the only wedding ring displayed behind bulletproof glass. Males are left no longer sure whether to be gentlemen or jerks. And as we keep banging off of each other in these failed dating expeditions, the definitions of the sexes are constantly evolving as we keep reshaping ourselves to adapt.

I think we have become such a superficial society that even when we seek our mates—the most important relationship in our life--we often overlook substance for external traits.

Then I think about the bible reading of the week wherein Abraham seeks a wife for his son Isaac with the conditions that she comes from a good family and suitable place. And so, the patriarch’s servant looks to find a woman who is also kind and compassionate and of substance, who has common values and is worthy of perpetuating the seed of Abraham. He finds Rebecca. And the Bible tells us that Isaac took her as his wife and he loved her. In today’s society we invert that order. First we think we have to be crazy in love and then we can think about marriage. We have only to look at the statistics of divorces and adultery to see how well that is working out.

Stop thinking of whom you have to impress by having a charm on your arm. Everyone goes home to their lives and no one really cares if you are alone or not, except you. Remember, no matter how good looking a girl is, there is always some guy who is tired of sleeping with her. The search for finding someone "even better" is endless. Ask the Taiwanese woman who is spending her honeymoon in a twin size bed, alone. I just hope she doesn't run out of quarters for the shake-o-matic bed.

Maybe it’s time to look at people a little deeper as to what is “hot” and what is “not” before we whittle away our days alone on our hypercritical perch.

1.Richard Florida , “A Singles Map of the United States of America,” The Boston Globe.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Eyes Adored You by Aliza Davidovit

I was so angry this morning after I caught someone I love lying to me and manipulating me that I almost couldn’t write this blog. All the calm feelings and even-keeled sentiments needed to compose an inspiring article were nowhere in reach except perhaps at the bottom of a bottle of kosher wine. But it’s only 10 a.m. and still twenty minutes too early to start drinking.

So what do you do when those you trust let you down? Do you close your eyes? Do you open them ever-wider? Do you start an all-out war and put them in their place?
The truth is I have no answers for this today except to look into the biblical teaching of the week and hope something applies to me.

Turns out this week’s portion speaks of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. How apropos because I’m ready to come down like a wrecking ball on this friendship of mine as the betrayal is sticking in my throat like a stubborn long spiky fish bone which won’t come up and won’t go down.

So, I’m with God when He says He is going down to visit this sinning town and wipe it out. But then the words of Abraham come to quantify the wrath and he starts negotiating with God asking if He would save the cities if even only 50 good men could be found and the Good Lord concedes. Abraham keeps whittling away at the number until he is assured that S&G will be saved even if only 10 good men could be found in their midst.

And so I too am forced to start assessing what redeeming qualities can be found in my friend. I’m further reminded of the Talmudic teaching that says a person was created with two eyes so that with the left eye (which represents judgment) he should look at himself to find his own faults and work on eliminating them; and with the right eye (which represents mercy) one should look upon others with compassion and kindness. For certain, since love is blind, when it comes to ourselves we only see perfection; yet when evaluating others in our lives we have 20/20 vision.

But I think the deeper lesson here is what we tend to focus on, be it the good or the bad, will grow and will change us. They say every single thing has a negative and positive aspect to it and the one that will dominate is the one you “feed” the most. If I focus on the “lie,” then from now on every sneeze my friend makes will be subject to my analytical scrutiny and to my second guessing. In the process, I become the ugly one, the one who becomes obsessed with deviousness even as I try to dodge it, whereas the great Patriarch Abraham focused only on the good, even in the vilest of places. In this same biblical portion we also read about Ishmael’s mother, Hagar, who in thirsty despair focused only on the parched desert around her and therefore did not see that a well was right beside her too.

Friends, despite these great biblical lessons, this is one of those situations where personally, I just don’t know where to look. So in the meantime, I’m looking for the corkscrew.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yes You Can! by Aliza Davidovit

Sometimes the biggest impediment between what we want and where we are is our own voice inside our head. “I can’t do it,” “It’s too late for me,” “I don’t have what it takes,” etc. We sit in the bleachers watching our lives pass us by and instead of cheering ourselves on, we boo ourselves out of the game even before we start playing. And in this cold world where everyone tries to drown you out either because of jealousy or their own insecurities, we join them in self-deprecating language as to why we can never be what we strive to be or to get where we want to go. Our own negative words erect blockades before us where none have to be.

Now, whether you like her or not is your affair, but I can’t help but think of Oprah Winfrey when I think about words. Hers is the epitome of the triumph of the underdog story. Everyone told her she wouldn’t make it. Whatever it is, she didn’t have it. All kinds of negativity was hurled at her. Yet she never let the words, not her own or those of others, shackle her--a daughter of slaves who chose to free herself. Not words nor negativity would she permit to be her taskmasters.

We all know that speaking disparagingly of others is not a nice thing to do. So what makes it nicer when we can’t find a kind, encouraging or hopeful word for ourselves? We must choose the vocabulary of our days very deliberately because it becomes the narrative of our lives. How can you really believe in God if you don’t believe He gave you everything you need to forge forward? You may not have had the economic advantages of your neighbor, or the education of your brother, or the looks of your sister, but you have something they will never have, YOU! Moses held in his hand not a golden gilded sword for the task ahead of him, he had but the staff of a shepherd and he made it work for him, with faith not fear.

When we look at many of the biblical giants, none of them were perfect. Moses had a speech impediment; Jacob had a limp; Issac became blind. Yet each of them had the self-confidence to take chances. None of them stayed home all day watching soap operas and living their lives vicariously bemoaning their lot in life.

So dear friends, I urge you to let go of all the negative words that are shackling you to your discontent--just as the Patriarch Abraham in this week’s Bible reading left all the things that defined him behind. It may be interesting to note that the Hebrew words that command Abraham to get up and go (lech lecha) have the numerical value of 100, the same as his age when his son Isaac was born. All his potential, the seeds of destiny, were bred in his optimism in breaking with yesterday, in seeking new definitions of himself, so much so that even God renamed him changing Abram to Abraham.

Look in the mirror and say “Yes I can” over and over again until the mirror reflects your potential even before you show up. Great things await you; they are just waiting for you to put in a good word.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

And the Congeniality Award Goes To... by Aliza Davidovit

It starts early on our desire to be accepted. Often the price for admission is our individuality. We suppress what is different about us either in opinions, morality, stance or proclivities because we don’t want to stand out, or be laughed at or be disliked. How often on Facebook or other blogging sites do you find yourself among fellow conservatives or liberals pandering to the conversation with trepidation that if you say something out of the accepted norm of your “clan” that you will be ostracized?

But our potential dear friends lies not in sublimating what is unique about us and in squelching our voice but rather speaking boldly, come what may. A herd mentality is a dangerous thing no matter which part of the political or religious spectrum you may be on.

In this week’s Biblical reading we read about the Tower of Babel wherein God looked down upon those who set to build this tower into the sky and said: "Lo! [they are] one people, and they all have one language.” So what’s wrong with that? It’s not like they were committing murder. What is wrong with it is that they were so single-minded, so much in lockstep, so much of “one language” that no one questioned the other or challenged the other as to whether their actions were correct or not. Such uniformity in mind and action is a dangerous thing as it is bound to succeed, as did the Nazis to a great extent.

No, it is not easy to stand against the establishment; it is not easy to be that only voice which speaks out against wrong or injustice, but it is our duty to destiny which lies not only in the Kingdom of God but our kingdom here on Earth.

I’m reluctant to point to it, but I can’t begin to tell you how many people laughed at me when I ripped up my masters diploma from Columbia University in protest of its invitation to Iran’s President Ahmadinejad. One blogger wrote that I ripped all proof of having any brains at all. I was pretty much called every name under the sun from Zionist bitch to, well, it doesn’t matter. Throughout, I kept in mind the famous quote, “It doesn’t matter what they call you, it’s what you answer to!” And I was answering to a call of duty, not to those who looked down on me, but to those who looked up to me.

I urge you all to be that voice that rings out in the silent halls of consent, the one to make a ruckus when something is not right whether it’s on a national scale or an old lady being mistreated by a checkout clerk at the supermarket. Let’s not pretend we like to mind our own business while every other second of the day we are on information overload seeking out what’s going on in every dark place in the world from celebrity to gossip to local riffs and tiffs.

Also in this week’s biblical portion we read about the story of Noah. In a world of complete depravity, he had the courage to be the sole voice of decency, to walk a righteous path and to live by example. For certain he wasn’t winning any popularity contests as he was hardly speaking “the language” of the times. Both he and his ark were oddities to deride until came the rain and the rising of the tide. In the end the “joke” was not on him at all.

I’ll bring this blog to a close with a poem I learned as a little girl:

No Enemies?

You have no enemies, you say?
Alas, my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You've hit no traitor on the hip,
You've dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You've never turned the wrong to right,
You've been a coward in the fight.

~ Charles MacKay (l814-l889)

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned from a Cup by Aliza Davidovit

Who says we can only learn things from other people? This week I learned a lot from a porcelain cup. As I warmed up a delicious soup and poured it into my favorite mug, I started reading the ingredients on the can searching for the calorie count only to realize this soup I was lusting over had ingredients that rendered it not kosher. As I tearfully bid farewell to the noodles as I threw the soup away, it dawned on me that the content had also rendered the cup itself not-kosher as per Jewish law. The porous nature of porcelain makes it an absorbent and it is thus altered, however minutely, by that with which it commingles.

It made me think, that we too, humans, are all vessels, “cups,” who must be on constant vigilance of what we are allowing to fill us up. Do your cups runneth over with honeysuckle wine or with artificially-sweetened poison that slowly kills the great person you are, putting the best of you to rest one sip at a time.

Our fives sense are the openings through which we take it all in, the means through which we fill that "cup" which is "us." So I ask: What are you looking at? Who are you listening to? What are you eating? What are you touching? What are you smelling? These senses are all gifts from God. Ask the blind man or deaf man if you don’t believe that it is so. Ask an elderly person who no longer has the ability to taste, or a brain tumor patient, such as my dad was, whose sense of smell was destroyed. Do not for one moment take for granted the access points through which we imbibe life. When you learn to appreciate and cherish them, you will learn to use them wisely and put a burly bouncer at each entry to ward off the crap from entering your life.

We may think we are impervious to listening to hateful things; we may think we can watch whatever we want on TV and just close the channel and it’s over, and so on. But it is not the case. Human beings are evermore porous and continually altered by what they allow in both physically and spiritually.

This week we begin the Bible reading again with the story of creation and Adam and Eve. We learn that it was all the senses, except the sense of smell, that led Eve to sin. She opened her ears to the snake’s beguiling tongue; she visually lusted over the beauty of the forbidden fruit; she touched it; she tasted it. She let in all the wrong things—one fateful step at a time—and shattered the pure vessel that she was, bringing mankind down with her.

So my friends, before you fill your cups, take a good look at the ingredients and make sure that you are always drinking “to life.”

As an addendum, I also learned something from another inanimate object in my home, a crystal snake? Someone once gave me this expensive Daum crystal serpent as a gift which I abhorred for obvious reasons. For many months I’d pass by it and say, “Feh, I hate it” and dreamed of ways to get rid of it or break it without insulting the giver. But as time passed by, I completely stopped noticing it. And that too is a lesson. Our senses eventually become lulled by over exposure (ask any perfume sales girl), and you can have a snake right before your eyes and not even see it for what it is. So, don’t let your senses fall asleep on the job. But rather, stand guard, be on alert, for there is no interaction that leaves you as you were before.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

How Sweet It Is to Be Loved By YOU! by Aliza Davidovit

As I sat before a blank page one year ago with only the will to write these blogs but not certain I had the words, I really wasn’t sure I’d make it through the year. I’ll be honest, I’ve tried it before. But wandering through the desert for 40 years was a difficult task, even from the comfort of my living room. Usually by the second book of the Bible, I’d say, “Sundays are for relaxing,” and I’d put my pen to rest. But as the Jewish people are apt to do, I ask myself a few questions: “Why was this year different than all the other years? What gave me the incentive to keep on going?” The answer was “YOU!” From week to week the support and encouragement you gave me has kept me fired up and inspired, even the criticism too. For it is impossible to have two Jews and one Jewish mother among your readers and not be met with criticism. But, I just want to say that I have never had friends like you before. God has truly surrounded me with very special people from every faith and almost every country. I believe each of you has been handpicked by Him and your friendship has touched me deeply. As I enter the Jewish New Year, I pray for all of you to have friends like YOU who will lovingly get you to whatever finish line means the most to you.

The famous Rabbi Lapin has said that anything good that happens in life involves the coming together of things: molecules need other molecules for matter to form; letters need other letters to make words and sentences; notes need other notes to make music. And most of all people need other people. The hermit in me never knew that—until I met all of you! As Barbara Streisand once sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” I need all of you and consider myself now the luckiest person to have found you.

So as we enter Rosh Hashana, my friends of all faiths, I pray that God showers you all with blessings and with true and righteous friends who encourage you to grow and to be better, people who look upon your face and see that you are made in God’s image and remind you everyday that you can surely live up to the part.
Shana Tova!

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jew to Jew: On the eve of the high holidays! by Aliza Davidovit

I’m sure mothers are the same in every ethnic group but please oblige me if I pick on Jewish mothers because it’s just plain fun. Last weeks’ Bible reading in which God lists 98 curses that will befall the Jewish people if they don’t behave reminded me of a Jewish mother’s warning every time her child leaves the house: wear your hat or you’ll catch pneumonia; don’t forget lunch or you’ll get an ulcer; park close to the door or you’ll get mugged; call me as soon as you get there or my blood pressure will go up and you won’t have a mother to worry about you, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Then they bid you to have a good day. We didn’t even leave the house yet and we are already advised of 98 ways our lives will be ruined.

Perhaps the above approach does not engender the current trends of positive thinking. But one thing is sure, every advisory, from God and our mothers is packed with deep, deep love. Our souls are all on journeys and when they leave their heavenly house they too are not sent off with such platitudes as “have a nice trip,” but rather are given warnings and codes of behavior. It’s almost like a travel advisory from the State Department.

But when God hides his face from his people and our dear mothers are no longer, who is left to love us? Judaism teaches that each Jew must love the other and watch out for his physical and spiritual well being because even though one may be on the political left and the other on the right, they are in essence part of one body and the injury of any part is deleterious to the whole. The one thing that can sustain the Jewish people is their love and respect for each other--just as Rabbi Hillel summed up the entire Bible by saying what is hateful to you do not do to another. The second temple was destroyed not as a punishment for lascivious behavior but because Jews showed hatred toward each other and lack of compassion, love and understanding.

As a people we cannot preserve ourselves or what we love by hating each other. There are times when the religious right frustrates me and there are times when liberal leaning Jews exasperate me. But just as Hitler did not discriminate over which Jew he hated, the antidote for our people is that we can’t discriminate over which Jew we love. In the open courtyards the Nazis stripped Jews down to nakedness and there were no rich or poor, liberal or conservative, religious or secular. “You are standing today, ALL OF YOU, before Hashem, your God.”

On the eve of the high holidays, all Jews must recognize that we are responsible for one another which also means that as a Jew when you engage in the secular world, in business, and in all affairs you must conduct yourself with decency and integrity so that when the next Jew walks into the building there are no aspersions cast upon him because of your dealings.

My friends, if the blood or bone marrow of a Jew you disagree with or hate was the only one that could save your child’s or your life, would you reject it? Of course not! So, don’t be so quick in hating. Our survival is symbiotic whether you like it or not. The mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael (Jews loving one another) is said to be the deed which hastens the coming of the Messiah. If we don’t love each other, why are we surprised that antisemites hate us? Yes, we are our brother’s keeper, so here, take my hat. It’s a cold, cold world out there.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Hate to Bug You, But… by Aliza Davidovit

The infestation of bedbugs in NYC may have many scratching their heads and other body parts as well, but in a country with so many ways to stay clean, it’s truly a wonder. In recent years we have seen a rise of animals coming out of their natural habitat and attacking people in suburbs and in cities. Snakes are slithering their way out of the rain forests into fancy swimming pools in Florida; coyotes are coming out of the woodwork on the east coast; human deaths by shark attacks have increased; bear attacks are also on the rise. We must surely ask “why?”

Now if you don’t believe in God that’s fine, you can get your facts from Animal Planet. But if you are a believer, you may want to take a look into His Good Book to discover the last time the boundaries between the animal kingdom and mankind’s realm broke down and what the result was: the Flood.

Today, as then, the borders between animal and man are crumbling because the one thing that separates man from beast is his keeping of God’s laws. If not for charity, decency, morality, mercy, and compassion we are just like any other animal. When we stop living as though we were created in God’s image, we start looking more and more like animals every day, driven solely by baser instincts.

Wherein the Garden of Eden man had dominion over the animals, today it appears that the animals have dominion over us--which brings me back to the bedbugs. Man once ate animals to sustain himself, and now these bugs eat upon man’s blood for sustenance. We have become a smorgasbord for them and other beasts.

How ironic it is that New York’s most proud and haughty edifice, the Empire State Building, should be plagued with bedbugs, just as are some of New York’s fanciest hotels, shops, and businesses. And these are only the reported cases. I suspect it won’t be long before it reaches the White House too. It was God who hit the mighty columns of Egypt not with big bombs, but with lice. Leave it to God to bring “the great” to their knees by the tiniest of mites, making fools out of those who flout His word and His ways. Those with no humility come to fear not the sword, but the bedbug.

I cannot help but be reminded of Titus, the emperor of Rome who, according to the Babylonian Talmud, "had an insect fly into his nose which then picked at his brain for seven years. When he died, they opened his skull and found the insect had grown to the size of a bird. The Talmud gives this as the cause of his death and interprets it as divine retribution for his wicked actions in destroying the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.”

As more and more people throw God’s laws out the window with the sanction of corrupted religiosity, of courts and of schools, our country is rotting at the core. Turns out that the sunshine Nancy Pelosi spoke of hasn’t been the best disinfectant after all. Maybe we should give the Ten Commandments another try.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hope is not a Dirty Word! by Aliza Davidovit


It turns out that “the hope we could believe in” wasn’t a bag full of miracles after all. If anything, these days, many of us feel a heightened level of despair and optimism is a hard-to-come-by refuge. But my friends, negativity is a dour compass and sure to lead us nowhere. We are obliged to bequeath to our children not slogans of doom and gloom, but rather to empower them with hope, real hope, based in faith and consolidated by action.

I have only to look to the Jewish people, the most persecuted group in history, to note a nation who is always worried about the future; Jews may as well change their national slogan to “Oys R Us.” With their ever-fearful mindset, it is surprising how God’s “chosen people” have been able to achieve anything at all. But the answer is because stronger than their qualms was their communal investment in hope. Dedicated to their faith, they never succumbed to despair even in the darkest hours when the Nazis’ black boots seemed to stamp out tomorrow. The faith and hope Jews clung to were Disney-like nourishing grounds which feed man to imagine a better life and world beyond crushing realities--to visualize a Promised Land beyond the barbwire fence of a concentration camp. Hope was cultivated to a premium and became a cultural tool that continues to encourage Jews to dream big and to push forward both personally and as a people.

Today, the State of Israel is a remarkable testimony to the power of hope. And it is no coincidence that its national anthem is Hatikvah, which means “the hope.”

As Samuel Smiles said: “Hope is the companion of power, and mother of success; for who so hopes strongly has within him the gift of miracles.”

It is often in human nature to give up when one is beaten down over and over again. And when we look at what is becoming of America and the world today, it may be easier to say, “It’s too late; it’s gone too far. What can I do?” But are you really ready to throw your hands up in the air and surrender? Will we let the world’s devils beat us into submission, or will we, God’s faithful, raise the sword called “hope” and fight for our tomorrows believing that God sits at the tip of our every effort?

Psychologists say that hopeful people differ from the less hopeful in some intriguing respects: “Firstly, they have the ability to envision a broader range of goals; secondly, they have greater willpower and energy in pursuing those goals; and thirdly, they have the skills to generate a greater variety of routes to reach their objectives.” Hope is a smorgasbord and despair a starvation plan. At which table have you seated yourself?

Let’s stop focusing on how and when the world will end and stop escorting the saboteurs to the finish line. Let’s fight to take our country back and the whole world will follow America, as they always have. Yes, hope is indeed something we can believe in, so let’s show ‘em how it’s done!
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shape Up! by Aliza Davidovit

When we were children my brother had a distorted old pair of running shoes which he refused to throw away because they were so comfortable. My mother, to no avail, kept telling him that distorted shoes affect your walk and can misshape a growing foot. She also had her own theory for me too when I was a teen. She’d say, if you walk around in baggy sweatpants all the time, you’ll grow into them and won’t feel yourself getting fat.

Now this is no blog on orthopedics or weight, but the running shoe and sweatpants admonishments have become symbolic life lessons for me. Where she was a pragmatist, I was a philosopher. How often in life do we fall into what is comfortable for us instead of what is good for us? Too often! People are so reluctant to leave their comfort zones as though it was some exemplary state of being or Shangrila. I can tell you two things: Wearing tight clothes has kept me thin; as for my brother, I’ve seen straighter feet.

The comfort zone, dear readers, is not your friend. It’s a place where we lull ourselves with excuses and it is also a place where we stop seeing who we are and what we are becoming. How many of us have chosen friends because we feel “comfortable” to be “ourselves” instead of finding friends who egg us on to try harder and be better, not out of our envy of them necessarily but because they make us realize that we can be better too. How many of us get too comfortable in jobs that are beneath us or “love” relationships that diminish us or body sizes that inhibit or habits that kill us? We even grow comfortable in our misery: The whole world is bad, I’m the only good normal person left and as such I will disengage, stay in my bathrobe, eat a can of Pringles and watch TV.

Yes, it’s intimidating to dip one’s toe in the big wide world because even as we think we are great, we really think everyone else is better than us, smarter than us, more capable than us. We fear to venture forth and the comfort zone sustains the status quo, we think. But it does not. Life is like a treadmill and it’s always moving; you are either going forward or being pulled backwards, sometimes imperceptibly slowly but going backwards just the same.

From experience I can tell you the world is filled with people just like you and me and some, excuse me, are schmendricks of the highest order. The only difference for the most part between them and us is they got of bed an hour earlier than us and stepped out of their comfort zones. Billionaire Mark Cuban who started out selling garbage bags door to door told me that he got into the computer business not knowing a single thing about computers. You know what his advice to me was? “No balls, no babies!”

This week on the Hebrew calendar marks the month of Elul, which is a month of introspection wherein people try to improve themselves prior to the oncoming high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But change can never really come if we don’t hone in on what needs to be changed. A first clue is offered to us in this week’s Bible reading: “Is there a man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, that he should not cause the heart of his brothers to melt, as his heart." In other words take a good look at who you are “hanging with” and how they are influencing you to advance or retreat in life. It is also written, “You shall set up judges...for yourself,” which on the face means what it means. But it also means to surround yourself with habits, people, environments, challenges that will not let you get too comfortable and which will inspire you and enable you to grow, that will be deliberate in watching you! Don’t be a shrinking violet. Your potential is not to be found amidst the lint in your bathrobe pocket. Comfortable is overrated. Get yourself a new pair of running shoes and as the Nike slogan says, "Just Do It."
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Sunday, August 1, 2010

What Are You Worth? by Aliza Davidovit

One of the first assignments I had as a Columbia journalism grad student was to write my own obituary. And though I suspected the demanding curriculum would be the death of me, I never imagined it would happen so quickly. But looking at my life backwards, as that assignment forced me to do, gave me an unusual purview. The obit, after all, is the summary of our life stories. What narrative did I want my existence to tell? What story would you want your obit to tell about you? Let me guess, you’d want to be remembered as a good person and in your defense you’d say, “I minded my own business and I never hurt anyone.” A lot of people minded their own business too while Jews where being carted off to gas chambers; a lot of people minded their own business while politicians stole the soul of this country; a lot of people mind their own business while homeless and hungry people “accessorize” their alleys, church steps and park benches. Yes we are all good people but “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

When I had interviewed comedian Jackie Mason and asked what he wanted his obit to say, he answered, “As still living.” I laughed at first but later thought there is indeed a way to live on posthumously and it’s by living a purposeful life wherein your actions and impact on others breathe on in perpetuity. The thing is we really wouldn’t ever need an obit to prove that we died if all along we had purposeful and unselfish lives to prove that we lived. And so when my journalism professor used to tell my overtired and overworked classmates and me, “You’ll sleep when you’re dead,” I knew he was right. There is much to do in this lifetime and the time is short.

And so on this leisurely Sunday I urge us all not to relax too much. The reason we are born is to join God in perfecting this world and making it a better place--in Judaism it is called tikkun olam, i.e., fixing the world. In 2009, on an average day, nearly everyone age 15 and over (96 percent) spent 35.7 hours a week on leisure activities. With our social networking and i-application addictions I suspect the numbers are even much higher than that with respondents embarrassed and reluctant to tell the truth. We have really specialized in the art of relaxing, chilling out, escaping, “decompressing,” and closing off when there is a great wide world out there that is calling for us to engage and begging for our help. We may say what we are doing is harmless, but nothing in this life is neutral, it is either hurting or helping. What have you been busy with lately? We are such a lonely generation because all we care about is ourselves. We are proficient takers and such poor givers. What a beautiful example we are setting for our youth.

In this week’s biblical portion it is written, “I present before you today a blessing and a curse.” It does not include a gray zone. Offering the Sabbath as the day of rest, God then gives His people a lot of things to do and rules to keep, including feeding the poor, sustaining the widow and the orphan, and rooting out corruption. He also decrees, “You shall not harden your heart or close your hand.” Yes we work hard the whole week, but to what end, only for plasma TV’s and other gadgets? Will watching reruns of Seinfeld and playing FarmVille on Facebook be our bequest to the world? Albert Einstein once said, “The value of a man resides in what he gives [to the world] and not in what he is capable of receiving.” By that standard, ask yourself what you are really worth.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

IF by Aliza Davidovit

There are many strong, eloquent words in the dictionary, even very long ones, such as Floccinaucinihilipilification. At 29 letters it is considered one of the longest non-medical words in the English language. While saying it you even get to spit in someone’s eye and pretend it was by mistake. Ironically, the word is much ado about nothing and means “the estimation of something as valueless.” It seems like a lot of effort at articulation to deem something worthless.

Conversely, the word "if," so short and succinct, is often taken for granted though it is among the most powerful words in our lives. It is upon this very simple two-lettered swivel point that our entire lives spin.

It means, basically, “on the condition that.” We learn the conditional value of "if" early on in childhood: “If you behave, you will get a toy”; “If you eat your spinach, you can have cake.” It’s a slippery word that slides so easily off our tongues that we don’t take notice of how it controls us day in and day out.

If my parents weren’t so tough, I’d have more confidence.

If I was working full time, I wouldn’t be gaining weight.

If I get a promotion, I’ll propose to her.

If I saw a miracle, then I’d believe.

There is not a second or circumstance of our lives that is not controlled by ifs. It allows us to manufacture excuses by the dozen whereby we blame conditions or the lack thereof for every move we make--or don’t make.

After 40 years of wandering and blaming their rebellious nature on the desert conditions and every possible reason to justify disobedience, God brings the Jews to the border of the Promised Land with an "if" of His own. Basically, He tells the Jewish people that they will be impervious to anything harmful, such as illness, famine, enemies, drought, infertility, etc., on the proviso, “IF” they keep his laws. But in the Hebrew text, the same word used to imply if--the word ekev--also means “heel,” as in the heel of a foot. In short, the same foot that hits the pavement to usher them into the land has the ability to pivot—to turn on one’s heel--and to drive them out if they stray from God’s laws.

We thus learn from this week’s Torah reading that our own actions will contribute to creating perfect conditions and not vice versa. I’ve heard many a Jew say, “If I had more money I wouldn’t work on the Sabbath” instead of having full faith that by not working on that day God would step in and help. When we start doing what we must and stop making excuses why we can’t, we will find Him there to sustain us even in our times; for, “man does not live by bread alone, but rather by whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live.” We survive not only by the sweat of our brow but also with faith and service to the Almighty.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times as a student, as a journalist and working at ABC News and Fox how observing the Sabbath posed a challenge. Yet I chose God and things always worked out in my favor regardless of how I stressed over it at the time.

Both in our personal lives and in our relationship with God, we have to stop relying on ifs, i.e., those perfect conditions in which we will find the impetus to pick up our tuchuses from the couch and start doing what’s good for us in life. We have to create the conditions in which we thrive and thrive in all conditions. The plant, the Wandering Jew, was named as such because like the people no matter where it is planted it adapts and grows. As individuals we must all learn to do the same. The perfect time and place hardly ever comes. And so, perhaps the best sentence starting with the word "if" is from the great rabbi Hillel who said, “If not now, when?”
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Where Do I Go from Here? by Aliza Davidovit

I’m sure most women can relate when I say I tried on everything I own, nothing looked good, nothing fit right and by the time I left it looked like a hurricane had hit my bedroom, leaving clothes scattered all over the bed and hanging from door knobs. Even as I drove to the event, I grumbled inside how I hated my shoes and lusted for a glass of cold wine to fix my foul mood. But as I entered the hotel to attend the black-tie event, it was not the big mirrors of the banquet hall that made me realize I was a schmuck of epic proportions, nor was it the gorgeous and fabulously dressed who’s who also in attendance. It was the hundred-plus individuals who entered the building at quite a different pace—they rolled in on wheelchairs to attend “A Magical Evening,” the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation fundraiser dinner for those with spinal cord injuries.
The startling contrast between the two worlds of those on heels and those on wheels breathed life into the old adage: “I envied the man with a pair of [designer] shoes, until I saw a man with no feet.” But, as the night unfolded, the adage transformed before my eyes. Those who could not walk took to the dance floor in their wheelchairs, while others took to the stage to inspire us, demonstrating how life can go on beautifully despite our handicaps. Where one initially saw those who could not stand or walk due to spinal cord injuries, one could yet envy these individuals who have outpaced most people with their courage, unyielding determination, and joie de vivre. By night’s end it became less clear who was there to help whom.
I wondered, however, whether it was equally bad to compare oneself with those who have it “worse” as it is to compare oneself with those who have it better. I concluded in my mind, that as long as we are looking at each other to learn and not to judge or covet, then it is okay.
The question I was left with is how can we go on when our life changes overnight, when everything we have lived for dies?
I can never forget the story of female basketball player Rayna DuBose. She was 6’3”, very pretty, and embarking on a promising college basketball career at Virginia Tech in 2002. Her skills as a player were quite special. She could have reached the “heavens” with her talent and jump shot. One day at practice, Dubose wasn’t feeling too well and fainted. She was rushed to the hospital where the doctors told her parents that she was the sickest girl in Virginia and may die. She was in a coma for three weeks. Dubose had contracted meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection that had wreaked so much tissue damage the doctors were forced to amputate both her hands and feet. Today, wearing prosthetics and high-heeled shoes, she sees only the good in her story. Her website is themed: “Winning the Game of Life.” When people tell her that she inspires them or is very strong she asks, “How can I inspire when I feel so normal in this world?”
When Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong was asked how cancer changed him his answer was, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me because it made me a better man.” He went on to say that “there are two Lance Armstrongs, pre-cancer and post and evidently, the best man won.”
When Parkinson’s disease threw Michael J. Fox out of the driver’s seat of his life, he was distraught. Today, he says, “I’ve seen illness. I’ve seen, you know, certainly over the years, a lot of young children get ill… if I want to feel bad for anybody… there is a long list of people’s names—and my name is not on it.”
He recounts how every morning he passes the mirror, “I look at it and I say, what are you smiling at? And then I realize that because it just gets better from here.”
Although sometimes we can become petty, believe me my wardrobe is the least of my problems and I’m certain the least of yours too. But when big things do hit us in life -- sickness, divorce, bankruptcy, the death of people we love -- undoubtedly a part of us dies too, but it is still not yet time to put up our tombstones. Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big God is. Chose the tree of life and live to love another day. Just keep on walking even if you hate your shoes.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

You Can Do it! by Aliza Davidovit

The Talmud asks, “Who is wise?” The answer: “He who learns from every man.” So please indulge me in that from all the world’s sages, I have chosen to quote Bon Jovi and not Aristotle.
"Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far
Welcome, you gotta believe
That right here right now, you're exactly where you're supposed to be

We are often so hard on ourselves and critical of where we are in life that our negativity ends up being the biggest blockade of all. “I’m not smart enough,” “I can’t do it,” “The best years are behind me,” “Things are so bad, they just can’t get better,” are phrases with which we often brainwash ourselves, all the while hating where we find ourselves in life. Can you then imagine if you are finding yourself in a rut, how the wandering desert Jews felt going in circles for 40 years. Could God and Moses have been better served with a GPS? Why did they have to make 42 encampments and wait so long between their Egyptian enslavement and tasting the milk and honey of the Promised Land, all the while complaining bitterly?

In our lives, we too often feel like we are going in circles. So many yesterdays merge into one big blur, one indistinguishable from the next. But the truth is we really are on a spiral, and though we think we are passing the same point over and over again, it is always on a different level: either a higher one or a lower depending on what we do with the moment.

The reason we often find ourselves stuck in one perpetual Groundhog Day is because we have not yet learned the lessons and passed the tests. As such, until we get it right, “right here, right now, you're exactly where you're supposed to be.”

The same was true for the Jews who left Egypt. They were not physically able to seize the prize, i.e., the land, because they were not ready spiritually. Each encampment was a testing a ground for them, and they did not move on to the next one until their spiritual mission was accomplished. Their shlepped-out journey was boot camp for the soul. God is always trying to teach us something and make us better, even if we don’t approve of “the accommodations.”

In our own lives, instead of hating every second of the “now” perhaps we should question what spiritual failing is holding us back. But there is another point I want to emphasize, and that is the language we use when we talk to ourselves--which also solidifies the status quo.

In the case of the Jews, throughout every century and within every country they have lived, they have been called the vilest of names by antisemites. Considering that type of talk, it’s a wonder that Jews haven’t developed an inferiority complex and confined themselves to the ghetto to make mud patties, but rather have excelled in every industry and jumped to the forefront of the world stage. It is because, in my opinion, their main coach, GOD, talked up their game, called them a special and chosen people and told them they are to be a light among the nations. All the confidence that haters of Jews tried to suck out of them, was ineffectual because God breathed his eternal confidence and praiseworthy words into them.

Therefore we too, as we struggle to move forward in life and to fight our spiritual battles, must alter the language we use when we talk to ourselves: “You are smart enough,” “You can do it,” “The best years are ahead,” “Things are hard, but they will get much better.” Don’t think of yourself as stuck in a dead end, think of yourself as engaged in an opportunity. As Bon Jovi says, “Welcome to wherever you are” and work with it, don’t let it work against you. God’s faith and his word are upon each of us, and the slogan for his “army” has always been “Be All You Can Be.” For in truth, what makes a land flourish with milk and honey is what we bring to it, not what we take from it.
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Throwing Pessimism on the BBQ

Ask most people what they want from life and they will say, “I just want to be happy.” Yet with that goal in mind most of us are still walking around depressed and miserable, especially when we are sober. It’s funny how when we drink girls look prettier, we believe we can dance, and our problems don’t seem that bad. These alternate perspectives enhanced by Cosmos or Screwdrivers should tell us one thing, that our minds have the power to re-frame reality. And though booze may provide the express train to positivity, if we can get there with it, we can there without it too. A greater part of reality is created by our attitudes and our outlooks. As Dennis Kucinich once said, “We are not the victims of the world we see, we are the victims of the way we see the world.” And so, my friends, it is time to throw pessimism on the BBQ and start grilling the process and the things that make us so hard on ourselves.

I can point to a few causes. There are so much external stimuli telling us what’s wrong with us on a regular basis--from advertisements promoting picture-perfect people to a slew of shows that bring in figurative and literal wrecking balls to knock us down and make us over, offering better versions of our lives. Anyway you look at it a makeover show is saying what you are now is not good enough. Personally, I wasn’t fully cognizant of how deficient I was until I walked into a Barnes & Noble bookstore and was assaulted by hundreds of titles that promise how to make yourself better and to be the best at just about anything: How to be the Best Lover, How to be the Best Date, How to be the Best Terrorist, How to be the Best Friend, How to be the Best at Being the Worst—okay, that one I made up. But the point is that these books are really trying to sell us prescriptions for “happiness,” though, I think, they really just contribute to misery. They set up impossible goals for us and when we fail to become all they promise, we become depressed and insecure and wallow in the valley of the gap that exists between our fantasy world and reality.

And just let’s say we follow the directive of one such “self help” book, what happens then when another “better” person comes along? Does our happiness commit suicide? What if a few people buy the same book, (as publishers hope they might), who will be the “best lover” by the last page, you or the other reader? Can there be two bests? We live by such exaggerated standards it is little wonder people are depressed in increasing numbers.

The exit to “happiness” is not found along that interstate of false versions of ourselves. We see so many people today who go through endless plastic surgeries to achieve “bestness.” These processes, however, have nothing to do with being the “best YOU can be”; they are really about being better than the next guy or gal. Well brace yourselves, for there will always be someone better, younger, faster, sexier etc. The only winnable competition is against yourself and the only measurement for true happiness is are you a bit better of a person than you were yesterday? Have you overcome your own stubborn nature and done what’s good for you today? Or are you still trying to be better than your brother-in-law?

Start looking at yourself as if you were drunk and start liking what you see. I believe that there really is only one book that can help you be the best you can be and that’s the Good Book. In it you will find how great and precious you already are. For, how can we really love our neighbors as ourselves if we hate ourselves? Change your attitude from baditude to gratitude and you will see the world change before you.

In such difficult times, it’s evermore important to put smiles on our faces and start appreciating all that we do have. Stop coveting your neighbor’s ass and start watching out for your own.
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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Goodbye America. It was nice to know you! by Aliza Davidovit

The other day I incidentally drove by the Apple store in Manhattan and was really amused and disheartened by the long line of thousands of people waiting to pick up their iphone 4G. As this country is falling apart it becomes evermore clear to me why: We are still living in La La Land. I questioned when was the last time New Yorkers formed such a queue to protest a government wrongdoing and lined up outside their congressman’s door. Undoubtedly these hoarders of high-tech phones have seen a news flash or two and are aware that times are no good and are spiraling quickly downwards. So why don’t they get it? Why don’t they realize that they are standing in the “wrong” line? And it dawned on me because we are a society and a generation reared on Hollywood endings. Things will be okay; things will work out; America will bounce back. We will all live happily ever after.

But, my dear readers, as the president and his administration proceed to fundamentally transform America as he promised, the floor under our feet, the one we were hoping to bounce back from, is being shattered. There is a dark deep abyss beneath, an unknown that those not blinded by the happy-ending syndrome believe is a socialist agenda at best, that will destroy the United States of America.

Please tell me why, if the president doesn’t believe in exceptionalism for our country which succeeded in being great because of its freedoms and unparalleled system, then why does he believe in personal exceptionalism? Why did he rise to the top and become a president and not remain a community organizer? Is he the only one allowed to reach for the top, to be exceptional, while the rest of us peons have to wait until he and his mammoth and ever-growing government doles us out what they think we deserve?

We all know the numbers. The stimulus and bailouts, punishing the rich and businesses with higher tax burdens, the universal healthcare bill and cap and trade are all means of overtaxing the system and redistributing the wealth. In addition to the unsustainable stress on our economy, let’s not pretend redistribution is governmental philanthropy, it is plain out government theft. If it is my body that’s in the gym every morning at 6 a.m., is it fair that you should be accruing the muscles that I’m working so hard for?

The second step after controlling the purse strings is controlling the masses, which then leaves little surprise that this administration is so accommodating to illegal immigrants, even criminal ones. There is power in numbers.

Sometimes I wonder if Obama is trying so hard to implode the system that maybe, just maybe, there will never be a 2012 election. Maybe a revolution is already in place but it is starting from the top down instead of by the people.

Yes, this country, the leader of the free world, has gone through deep crises in the past, but the one factor that gave us optimism and hope was the integrity of the structure, i.e., our Constitution and the certainty that this was a democratic and capitalistic country which was respected by its allies and respected them in turn. Even our fallings and failings were sure-footed because America would always be America. Don’t count on that anymore.

My friends, as you show off your new i-phones with more applications than you could ever use in a lifetime, I urge you to tune into its built-in alarm clock and WAKE UP. The challenges we now face are unprecedented. I cannot help but think of this week's biblical story of Pinchas, where one sole man saw the threat to his nation and he alone took action to save the day. Of course I’m not calling for violence, God forbid, but I am calling for action. Are you doing all you can do, my fellow Americans, to save this great nation? Which line are you standing in? Are you a lawyer? A writer? A speaker? A singer? Whatever you are, take the talent that God gave you and use it to fight to save this great country right now before it’s too late and they lay the yellow tape around the map of America to demarcate the greatest crime scene and slaughtering of liberty the world has ever known.
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Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Love Boat & The World’s Romance with Israel by Aliza Davidovit

There is an expression in Yiddish that poorly translates as “it is hard to be a Jew.” I believe that is very true. This past week once again proved how Israel is always held to different standards and singled out for opprobrium. The biggest murderers in the world are innocent before proven guilty, yet Israel, the only democratic state in the Middle East that has been on the defensive for 62 years, is always deemed guilty before anyone even knows what happened. And though article 51 of the UN charter grants every country the right to defend itself, it seems not to apply to Israel. Hamas’s more savory charter that calls for the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7) is deemed more acceptable than any efforts by Israel to simply exist in peace.

Alan Dershowitz points out that “Israel is the only democracy in the world ever accused of war crimes when it fights a DEFENSIVE war to protect its civilians.” All the facts in Israel’s defense are ignored because hate and antisemitism build a better case against the Jewish State. The intellectual liberal elite posture themselves as avant-garde arbiters of truth and fairness, when hate is still the primitive feeding ground that formulates their hostile position toward Israel. I respect Hitler and Ahmadinejad more than the pseudo-intellectuals, journalists and analysts of our times. At least they openly declared that they hate Jews and want them dead—they never pretended that the exclusive bashing of Israel or Jews (and omission of bashing real evil doers) was anything other than pure and blatant good old fashioned antisemitism. (In fact, now we may even know what happened to the two lost tribes. They probably took directions from journalist Helen Thomas along their way and went back to Germany to be met with a warm welcome, okay a hot welcome, okay a crematorium.)

Forget that Ahmadinejad has declared that he will destroy Israel in one week and continues with his nuclear agenda; forget about the atrocities in Darfur and Rawanda; forget that more Muslims are killed every day in Africa and the Middle East by Muslim governments; forget that Hassan Nasrallah, the terrorist leader says that, “We are going to win because they [Israel] love life and we love death;” forget that North Korea torpedoed a south Korean warship where 46 people were killed; forget the wars waged by Russia against Chechnya where tens of thousands of civilians were murdered in cold blood. None of these real atrocities will bring out the cries and crowds in rock concert numbers as do the opportunities to publicly stone Israel. Forget that it was a Turkish Islamist group with a history of assisting Islamist terrorists which played a major part in the “humanitarian sailing” of the Mavi Mamara flotilla. Forget that Article 19 of the Law of the Sea Treaty specifies that “any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defense or security of the coastal state” or “the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws or regulations of the coastal state” are deemed “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security” of that state. Forget that Israel compromises its own military edge and jeopardizes the lives and safety of its own soldiers by dropping thousand of pamphlets disclosing to their enemies where they will strike in order to avoid civilian casualties. Forget that every day Israeli doctors and hospitals are saving the lives of Palestinians. Forget that Israel transfers some 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza. Forget that Israel left Gaza in 2005 and received its thank you card in the form of thousands of anti-personal rockets aimed at civilians in Sderot, where school kids have 15 second to get to a bomb shelter upon hearing a siren. Forget that Israel has sought peace with its neighbors for 62 years and offered the Palestinians major concessions which were rejected in favor of launching an intifada on Israel instead. Yes, I say forget all these proofs because despite all else that has gone on and continues to go on throughout the world, it is only Israel who warrants UN special emergency sessions on holiday weekends to be vilified for perpetrating sins against humanity. I guess Israel’s consistent detractors subscribe to the belief that the only good Jew is a dead Jew.

The comment that irked me most in this new tirade against Israel was by editor/ publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation who said to Bill Maher,despite the aforementioned litany of proof to the contrary, that “Israel has lost her soul.” No my dear vanden Heuvel, Israel hasn’t lost its soul, its grown a pair of cojones called the Jewish State--and the UN charter and enemies bent on its destruction have given Israel the legal and moral right to use them. Sorry, but gas chambers are just so passé.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Binding Ties and Severing Lies by Aliza Davidovit

We live in times where we have just about heard it all, so much so that it becomes increasingly hard to hear anything at all. Our ears, eyes and minds simply can’t keep up with the shocking bombardment of events that our marking our times. We once thought it was incredible to try the 9/11 conspirators in a Manhattan court but that seems to pale in comparison to the current plan to build a mosque next to Ground Zero. Before we can digest one travesty a grimier one surfaces to entertain our ulcers.

Yet there is another headline, an evermore subtle one that equally grates upon me. It was the criticism Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian negotiator, launched against Prime Minister Netanyahu for mentioning the Jewish people's biblical ties to Jerusalem this past Jerusalem Day. He accused the prime minister of “[using] religion to incite hatred and fear.” Never mind the blatant hypocrisy of his condemning “incitement,” a weapon the Palestinians use ever so proficiently, but I viewed it as a fundamental and dangerous strategy aimed at the final delegitimization of the Jewish Homeland. First they accused Jews of behaving like Nazis vis-a-vis Palestinians to justify their terror upon Israeli citizens. Then they decided to launch a war against the “truth” of the Holocaust as to minimize the need of a Jewish refuge and homeland. Now there appears to be a nascent battle against the decisive binding tie to the Promised Land—the Torah--by rendering mention of the Bible as inciting. I take it that it is in the name of peace that Palestinain children are taught from birth to hate and kill the Zionist enemy, that suicide bombings are glorified, that streets and town squares are named after the mass murderers of innocent civilians, that ketuhshas are smuggled underground, that Israeli goods, films and athletes are being boycotted with fervor and glee, including the most current Palestinian attempt to prevent Israel's acceptance into the OECD.

There is only one claim (excluding the UN resolution that voted Israel into modern existence) that the Jews have to Israel, and that is because God gave it to them. It is not the Holocaust; it is not international consent or approval; it is not the strength of their guns. Therefore, the attempt to stifle an Israeli prime minister from speaking of this biblical connection to the Holy Land appears to be an “incitement” of the most dangerous kind. Let me remind those of you who may have forgotten God’s words: "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you… all the land of Canaan as an eternal possession….” (Genesis 17:8).

The Bible refers to Jerusalem and Zion 850 times. It is not mentioned even once in the Koran, nor is it even mentioned in the PLO Charter. Jews throughout the world pray facing Jerusalem; by contrast all Muslims face Mecca when praying. Jerusalem has NEVER been the capitol of any other nation except Israel, nor has it ever been a holy city to the Muslims. No Arab ruler other than Jordan’s King Hussein ever even visited Jerusalem during the 1948-1967 period of unfettered Jordanian rule over the eastern part of the city.[1] Jerusalem is merely an excuse and a symbol of the greater struggle to wipe Israel off the map. Let us not forget that the Palestine Liberation Organization was established in 1964, three years before Israel secured the West Bank and Old Jerusalem. So what was the PLO trying to "liberate" then? Clearly, the entire pre-'67 state of Israel.

A common misconception is that Jews were forced into the Diaspora by the Romans in the year 70 C.E. and then, 1,800 years later, returned to Palestine demanding their country back. In reality, the Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years. Even after the destruction of the Second Temple and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in the land of Israel continued and often flourished,[2] and the Jewish hope to reclaim it as their own never abated.

In less ancient history the story is told of Napoleon who, when walking through the streets of Paris, passed by a synagogue and heard people weeping inside. When the emperor asked his companion why they were weeping, he was told that it was the holiday of Tisha B'Av when the Jews mourn the loss of their Temple. Upon hearing that Napoleon then said, "If they are still crying after 1800 years, then I am certain the Temple will one day be rebuilt!"

On May 14, 1948, the Jews reestablished sovereignty over their ancient Biblical homeland with the third temple yet to be rebuilt. But it must be noted that even though many conquerors since 500 B.C.E have conquered the Holy Land -- the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Romans and the Turks--never during all that time was there ever a people called Palestinians nor any such tribe, certainly none who rose up against those mighty empires and declared that their country was taken from them. The Palestinians and their cause is a modern phenomenon. Jews, their hope, and the State of Israel, however, are an ancient truth. If you don’t believe me, ask God!

[1] Information provided by the ZOA
[2] “Myths and Facts,”
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother and Daughter: A Personal Tale

This blog is a personal story and dedicated to my mother for Mother’s Day.

“The foot bone connected to the leg bone, the leg bone connected to the knee bone,
the knee bone connected to the” femur bone, the femur bone connected to the pelvic bone. Let me know when you’ve stopped singing. The femur bone, also called the thighbone, as you may know, is the longest, largest, and strongest bone in the body. It’s an unusual thing to think of for a daughter, but my mother reminds me of a femur bone because it’s her strength of character alone and continued support and love that gives everyone close to her a leg to stand on. She is like an indomitable scaffold that sustains our courage and our family through the hardest of times.

There is not a thing upon which she lays her hands that she does not transform from average to beautiful--from décor, cooking, fashion, to extracting an individual’s full potential. Even death she made beautiful for my father. After the doctors told us that he had six more months to live, she didn’t leave him to their care but rather took care of him at home, herself, and decorated the remaining days of his life with music, love, and laughter until the angel of death closed his big blue eyes.

My parents were deeply in love for 38 years, like Romeo and Juliet. My mother would visit his grave every day for five years straight after he passed away. But I will never forget the night my father died in their bed. Through her sobbing tears, my mother went to blow dry her hair because the funeral was the next day. She said to us that my father loved seeing her look beautiful and even after having lost her parents, a daughter, a sister, and now her beloved sweetheart, she would not allow death to triumph over life. We all looked at her in awe. She was our femur that kept it all together just as that durable bone brings the upper and lower half of the body together.

But life’s a bitch and even as you try and put your best femured foot forward it can ravage you. A few years ago, my sprightly, energetic mother got out of bed one morning and five steps later found herself lying on the floor in screaming agony. It took her three hours to reach the phone. She called my brother, and being the superhuman body builder that he is, he beat the ambulance and broke down her five inch wooden doors with his own hands. I got the phone call in New York. I was on the next plane out. My mother’s complete femur bone was broken, eaten up by lymphoma. My beautiful mother, my best friend who I speak to a thousand times a day--I was not ready to say goodbye. I never will be. I had just signed a deal to ghostwrite a book on Jewish success, but instead of heading to the library I found myself sleeping on a lawn chair in my mother’s hospital room for three weeks and then staying in Canada for the next five months caring for her and her toy French poodle, Papoush. It was excruciating for me to see my mother that way. She was always so independent, coming and going, and now she had to go through chemo and learn to walk all over again with a titanium filled leg. She was my rock but now I had to become her femur. Yet even in the hospital, my mother wouldn’t surrender and refused to wear their hospital gowns or use their bed linens. She may be the only patient in the history of the oncology department who had a chiffon beaded nightgown and 700-thread sheets.

It was the hardest thing that we ever went through. Even the dog fell into a depression during that difficult time. Yet, I found strength in myself that I never knew I had. That strength was shaped like my mother. I have never met a person whose presence brings such light into any room as does hers. That light continues to guide my way. As we went through MRIs, surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss and rehabilitation, I was empowered by all the times in life I saw her fight instead of fall. I’d sing to my mother to distract her from her nerves and would make all the technicians and doctors laugh with my terrible voice. At my mother’s bedside, I wrote a book, nurtured her and her French poodle back to health, found the power of laughter, and realized that I stood in the shadow of the greatest role model a daughter could ever have. But most of all I learned how deep, special, and strong are the bonds of a mother, a daughter, and a French poodle. The femur bone had nothing on us.

On this Mother’s Day, I just want to thank God for the great blessing of a having a mother like mine, a mother who has taken so many lost souls under her wing and taught them to fly, a mother whose honesty will criticize you into perfection not weakness, a mother who has surely done God’s work, when He was busy elsewhere.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Holy Bagels! by Aliza Davidovit

Dear readers, we are close enough for you to know that I suffer from opsomania, which is, the abnormal love for one kind of food. In my case it’s bagels. Therefore, I cannot deny that as Passover approaches, I lament the loss of this round shaped carbohydrate and my spirit sadly flattens like a whole wheat matzo.

But Passover is not just about cutting bread from the menu or getting rid of the last possible crumbs from your fridge, your car, your sock drawer, or anywhere else you are harboring baked stowaways. On a deeper level, Passover, just as Easter, is a time for us to take an introspective look at ourselves, to clean up our spiritual crumbs, and to commit ourselves to do things differently today than we did yesterday.

The yeast that makes bread rise is compared to a man’s pride and to the puffery we entertain ourselves with in our ego-driven lives. Yet matzos are hardly attention getters, either by sight or smell. Everything about them bespeaks humility. Quite frankly, they are a needed reminder to a people who, bloated with their own success, forget that at any moment history can take the air right out of them. The destiny of a Jew can pivot in a second.

This past week, as we watched politics play out with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, we were reminded of that fact. And ominously, in the shadow of Passover, history seemed to repeat itself.

Once there was a leader named Moses who came before Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go!” But Pharaoh’s heart was pumped up on self-importance, ego and pride. Though he had chance after chance to do the right thing, he spurned Moses and God. He was, figuratively speaking, a yeast filled bagel. But egos make for poor scaffolds and thus the Egyptian empire crumbled. Netanyahu, too, arrived in the columned halls of DC with a similar message regarding housing for Jews in Jerusalem, basically saying, “Let my people grow.” The prime minister was met with the same defiance and arrogance of a true enemy of the Jewish people, a dislike that breached all former protocol, decency and semblance of friendship. Pharaoh told the Jews to make bricks with no straw, Obama tells Jews to build houses with no bricks.

My friends, the moment is as brittle as a matzo. This night is certainly different than all other nights as the US-Israel relationship hits an historic low and Iran casts an ominous gloom on the tiny Jewish state. Let’s pray for the sake of sparing lives and friendships that Obama will learn something from the humble matzo and soften his stance toward America’s stalwart ally in the Middle East. As for Netanyahu, like Moses, I implore him to stay the course, despite the pressures, so that God will continue to stand behind him and bless the Promised Land. If the president would have spent less time listening to his reverend’s hateful speeches and more time listening to scriptures he would have learned that the bread you cast upon the waters flows back your way. But, until it all plays out, let us just be glad that Obama bows and bends to foreign leaders as if he was a Geisha girl-- like this he won’t feel too disjointed if the God who watches over Israel has to bring him to his knees.

Happy Passover and Easter!!!
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

From Toe to Head by Aliza Davidovit

As I was lying on my couch with my feet propped up on the armrest reading the Bible that was resting on my stomach, I realized that from above the top of the page I could see my toes. Something about my position seemed disrespectful to me. I didn’t think my feet should be elevated above God’s book. I started to tell myself I was being silly and continued reading but my toe kept looking at me straight in the face. I then began to investigate if there were any discussions about this in Judaic literature and discovered that I didn’t invent an issue where there was none. Turns out that there are many rules on how to handle holy books. For instance, one can’t put a book down on the same bench you are sitting on, or place a book face down or on the floor. It is even a sign of respect to close the book when one is not reading it and to kiss it once done reading it or if you drop it on the floor. This search led me to read on about other traditions that advocate respect, such as requiring a woman to dress beautifully before lighting her Sabbath candles in order to show respect to the holiness of the day, or the past requirement of Talmudic students to sit on a lower level than their teacher, or that of priests officiating in the temple to wear special garb. All these procedures were followed in the name of respect.

These traditions touch me deeply even though they may seem benign and boring to others. It touched me because what I think is at the core of so much of today’s problems, from broken families to strained relationships even on the political scene, is the lack of respect between individuals. When I see all the fences religions erect vis-a-vis inanimate objects in order to preserve respect and to enhance our ability to differentiate between the holy and the mundane, I wonder why it’s not blatantly evident that the same has to be extended to people in order to preserve relationships.

The other week I was walking in a shopping mall when I heard a little girl, probably aged 9 or 10, tell her mother to shut up. I was disgusted with the mother, not the child. For it is obvious that that parent didn’t put up the essential scaffold that maintains all relationships: respect. I’m sure there were many infractions which went unchallenged before that impudent kid had the nerve to tell her parent to shut up. I have seen brides and grooms read their vows with such love and devotion and just a few years later they call each other every name under the sun. As a little girl I used to wonder how people who loved each other could actually get divorced. At what point does it break down, at what point does it become irreversible? We all recently saw how the United States spoke very rough and tough to Israel, its steadfast ally.

Relationships don’t crumble overnight. As we let our guard fall as to how we speak to others and how we let them speak to us, these insipid leniencies that seem meaningless and harmless in the moment end up creating a great chasm. A child shushes you quiet at 5 years old and tells you to shut up at 10, you call you husband “stupid” as a joke the first year of mariage and five years later you’ve expanded your liberties and call him a *!!@$%!@@*. The Holy Book starts off on your bookshelf and ends up as a coaster on the coffee table. Strategic interests unite two nations but harsh words and disrespect seem more potent in defining the future.

I guess this whole blog is to urge us all to guard the moments and to realize how important respect is as the glue to preserve all that’s decent and precious. We’ve become such an informal generation, and respect is one of the greatest casualties. In my temple growing up there was a big sign above the pulpit that said, “Know before whom you stand,” I think I too started forgetting, but my toes served to remind me.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Who is left to protect Israel? by Aliza Davidovit

Someone once told me that if you want to see how well Jews are doing just read an antisemitic paper. In it, the Jews, who make up .02 percent of the world population, are alleged to be running the entire world. The statistics alone would prove this to be preposterous.

Yet as my BlackBerry lights up like wild fire with 100s of e-mails a day from legitimate news sources, it is quite evident that Jews are in deeper peril today than ever before. All the fences Jews relied on to protect them are crumbling before our eyes. The troubles facing the Jewish State of Israel lay at the core of these tenuous times for the Jewish people. A new generation has arisen that remembers not the smell of smoke which arose from the crematoriums. This generation knows only Facebook, Twitter and iPhones and faces the world through flat plasma screens and not in 3-D reality where hate is spreading with alarming speed. It does not realize that without Israel every Jew throughout the world is a hated orphan who will be abused, assaulted or even murdered though they have assimilated into their local cultures. Remember the Jews of post-Weimar Germany. They, too, felt more German than Jewish…until they were brutally awakened as to their true status in the Fatherland.

In the past, education and strong ties to Eretz Yisroel have preserved a people confronted by villainous persecutions. But today Jews have become too comfortable in their host countries and have forgotten how much they need Israel for their survival. As such, Jews donate more charitable funds to save opera and whales than they do to save Jews. What message does this send to the next generation? As the "poisoning" of America's elites against Jews and Israel, especially in academia where anti-Israel agenda is metastasizing across campuses, our Jewish youth doesn't even know how to respond because they don't know the facts. Their ignorance has become our enemy’s greatest tool. Our kids live in an educational vacuum that we have let others fill. So, who is left to defend Israel: Obama, Ahmadinejad, Hamas, Hilary Clinton, the United Nations, or you and me?

My friends, I believe that as pertains to the Jewish state there is an enemy in the White House. How can we forget that prior to becoming president, Obama addressed AIPAC in 2008 and said, “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided”—until he changed his mind the next day. Now that’s commitment! Maybe we missed the fine print on his AIPAC statement which modified the word “undivided” as meaning that Jews can’t build houses in Jerusalem but Arabs can.

Oh, and then there was Obama’s promise in that same AIPAC speech in which he promised, "I'll do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” which translates into, “We will do nothing but offer carrots and sticks until they have a chance to complete their nuclear program and be a certain existential threat to Israel and the Western world.” If that devotion to its loyal ally is not enough, the president now sends Vice President Biden to Israel to make sure Israel does not defend itself against Iran in a pre-emptive strike. I ask you again, “Who is left to defend Israel?”

Shouldn’t we all be terrified when Biden calls the United States’ bond to Israel “unshakable” on Tuesday and then three days later Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells Netanyahu that building housing for Jews in East Jerusalem puts Israel’s bilateral relations with the U.S. into question. I have never seen something so unshakable shake so quickly.

This week Jews begin to read the third book of Moses, Leviticus. It begins with a call of duty to Moses, but its timing has never been more crucial. It is a call of duty to all Jews and friends of Israel to defend the Jewish homeland by all means. For Jews who voted for Obama it’s time you woke up and realized that behind whatever facade you wear in this life you are a Jew and no one will let you forget it as hard as you may try. It is time to get behind your people and your Jewish homeland; it is time to teach your children and wake up already.

If you still believe in the “yes, we can” man, fine, but put the pressure on him to stand by America’s most loyal ally in the Middle East. Tell the contortionist-in-chief to stop bowing and bending to foreign leaders and to stand up straight for his friends.

The days of wine and roses are over. There is a jihad against our people and the clock is ticking in double time.
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