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Rethinking the death penalty

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

How does the Torah view the ultimate punishment?

Ray Jefferson Cromartie is set to be executed in my home state of Georgia in just under three days as of the writing of this article. He’s the next man up in America’s prolonged history of judicial application of capital punishment. Ray Cromartie continues to proclaim his innocence in the 1994 killing of Richard Slyz, a 50-year-old store clerk who was shot in the process of a robbery which Cromartie admits to participating in. Yet, according to Cromartie’s telling, it was his co-defendant, Corey Clark, who ultimately pulled the trigger of the gun that killed Mr. Slyz.
Cromartie’s requests for the state to re-examine key pieces of evidence using modern DNA testing have since been rejected, something the deceased victim’s daughter finds unconscionable. “My father’s death was senseless,” Elizabeth Legettte writes in a letter. “Executing another man would also be senseless, especially if he may not have shot my father.” By the time this article is published, Cromartie will likely have been put to death by lethal injection.
“To err is human,” wrote the English poet Alexander Pope. And so it is that even the finest of human court systems will, at least on occasion, condemn the innocent and exonerate the guilty. Such is the burden of maintaining law and order. But how much erring is simply too much for society to accept? This is a question of the utmost poignancy when considering the death penalty, a punitive measure with irreversable consequences.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, at least 4.1% of those languishing on death row are innocent. Is that a number we simply cannot accept? Or, do the purported societal macro-benefits of carrying the death penalty on the books outweigh the heavy costs that these innocents are to bear?
If that were not enough to provoke renewed discussion on the continued application of the death penalty, the problems with America’s utilization of the death penalty run much much deeper. According to the Equal Justice Initiative’s website, “Prominent researchers have documented a pattern of discrimination in the application of the death penalty based on the race of the victim, race of the defendant, or both, in nearly every state that uses capital punishment.”
Then there is the issue of the role that poverty plays. Again the Equal Justice Initiative: “Whether a defendant will be sentenced to death typically depends more on the quality of his legal team than any other factor,” and the poor receive court-appointed lawyers who are typically overworked, underpaid and often ill-equipped to argue cases of such magnitude. As Anthony Ray Hinton, an innocent man who sat on death row for almost three decades, describes it, “It’s called capital punishment because if you don’t have the capital you get the punishment.” Add to this the approximately 10% of “death rowers” with documented cases of mental illness (something which calls into question the apropriateness of handing out the death penalty), and the seemingly arbitrary nature of when the death penalty is applied, and you have a veritable cocktail of systematic judicial disfunction.
Almost all western democracies have abondoned the death penalty, with the Council of Europe going so far as making the abolition of the death penalty a prerequisite for membership. What’s of particular interest to me, though, is their particular rationale in abandoning this ancient method of retributive justice. According to an official website for the European Union, the death penalty should be abolished for, among other things, being “inhumane, degrading and unnecessary.” Similar abolitionists, like the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that “Opposing the death penalty does not indicate a lack of sympathy for murder victims. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. Because life is precious and death irrevocable, murder is abhorrent, and a policy of state-authorized killings is immoral.”
In this regard, the Torah unequivocally diverges in thought.
Regardles of the frequency of its application, the punishment of the death penalty for murder was one of the very first God-given commands to mankind: “Whoever sheds the blood of man through man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (Beresheet 9:6). When we dissect the verse, we see that the very rationale for the application of the death penalty for murder is precisely due to man’s special place in creation, a being created in the image of God! It is the very sanctity of man and of human life itself that warrants the meting out of such a harsh punishment. For it is the punishment which alerts man to the severity of any given action, and insofar as murder is concerned, any underpunishment of the crime only serves to diminish the heinousnous of the crime and to cheapen the dignity of man and life itself. According to the Torah, it is indeed the absence of the death penalty in societal penal codes that is, to quote the European Union’s terminology, “inhumane” and “degrading.”
In Part II of this article we will examine how often the death penalty was actually applied during Jewish judicial history and ask how the Torah might advise a modern country in its potential formation and application of the death penalty.

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Remembering the master mime, Marcel Marceau

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

I never thought that a recent trip my wife, Deanna, and I took to North Carolina for a Road Scholar workshop would eventually lead me back to the master mime entertainer I had thoroughly enjoyed years ago, Marcel Marceau.
Marceau, considered by many to be the best mime ever, helped make mime internationally popular from 1948 through 2003.
Trying to contact an old Army buddy, Ben Martin, who had lived near our Montreat destination in North Carolina, I learned sadly that Ben had passed away two years previously.
Speaking to a friend of his, I also learned that Ben and Marcel Marceau had become good friends in Paris while Ben was a Time-Life photographer.
With Marceau’s’ permission, Ben took numerous photographs of the King of Mime, producing a wonderful 150-page display of the art of mime, titled “Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime.”
While this is primarily a photo book about Marceau, the entertainer, it also briefly mentions Marceau’s experiences evading the Nazis and helping to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Holocaust, a mitzvah he rarely mentioned. Just what you would expect from a silent mime.
Marcel’s real last name was Mangel, but he later changed it to Marceau when he needed an alias after joining the French resistance movement during World War II.
His family evacuated Alsace-Lorraine for central France. Sadly, like so many others, Marcel’s father, a butcher, was caught, deported to Auschwitz and gassed upon arrival.
Marcel, serving in the French underground with his brother, helped to hide many Jewish children from the Nazis and their French collaborators.
Changing the children’s ages from older to younger on their identity cards, Marcel was able to convince the enemy that the children were not old enough for heavy labor.
His acting ability shone through when he dressed, at times, as a Boy Scout leader, leading his charges to a campground in the hills, and across the border to safety in neutral Switzerland.
Because of his modesty, I suspect that many people are unaware of Marceau’s heroism during the war and are more knowledgeable about his successful mime career after the war.
With the liberation of Paris and the war in France drawing to a close, Marceau joined the Free French Army to use his language skills as a translator for General Patton.
Soon after Marceau’s pantomime skills became known to the GIs, there was a clamor for him to perform, resulting in his first professional performance, in a huge army tent before 3,000 troops.
In April 2001, Marcel Marceau received the Wallenberg Foundation’s award in recognition of his solidarity and courage during the Second World War.
If you don’t learn anything else from having read about Marcel Marceau, remember this: “Actions speak louder than words.”

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Grandparents can aid in Jewish youth engagement

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

Dear Families,
The Jewish Grandparents Network just came out with “Jewish Grandparenting Today: A Report on the findings from the National Study of Jewish Grandparents.” The sample included grandparents 55-80 years of age who self-identify as Jewish. There are a lot of interesting statistics to look at but here are a few dealing with attitudes and aspirations:
Grandparent Attitudes Toward Jewish Identity
•75% say being Jewish is an important part of my life
•70% say I feel that it is important to support Jewish charities or causes
•53% say I wish that my kids had a greater appreciation for their Jewish heritage
•51% say I consider myself a spiritual person
•30% say I consider myself a religious person
The “bottom line” is that Judaism is a strong part of the grandparent’s identity. Now how does that relate to their Jewish aspirations for their grandchildren.
•71% say it is important to me to transmit Jewish values to my grandchild
•70% say it is important to me to teach my grandchild about Jewish heritage
•64% say I want my grandchild to have a strong connection to Judaism
•63% say I want my grandchild to be interested in doing Jewish activities
•38% say it is important to me that my grandchild marries a Jewish partner
Grandparents, grandchildren and parents can learn much from this study. Of interest for us all are the questions on what constitutes Jewish identity, how do you define your identity as a Jew, and then the crucial question for all of us is how to transmit our values and heritage. It isn’t simply a desire but we each need a plan: What do you do that shows who you are and what you believe?
The final conclusion in the study is the challenge for us all today. Communities, parents, children AND grandparents must do their part.
“Communities and organizations would be best served by engaging today’s Jewish grandparents as true stakeholders with a full ‘seat at the table’ as they seek to better understand their interests and needs and to chart a path forward. When the Jewish community truly engages grandparents as partners, listen carefully, and invites them to play a lead role in designing and piloting new initiatives, they will harness a remarkable resource. The experience, talent, wisdom and passion of today’s Jewish grandparents will ultimately benefit the entire Jewish community.”
So all you grandparents out there — GET INVOLVED! Check out www.jewishgrandparents
network.org.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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Take heart: the body and soul connection

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried,
In reciting “the Shema,” in the first paragraph it says you should not be swayed “after your heart.” I have always wondered why there and other places in the Torah that I have read it refers to “thoughts of the heart,” when we know that thoughts are in the brain?
Zachary B.
Dear Zachary, For years I was perplexed by this question and fascinated that in Western civilization and earlier secular literature, emotions and thoughts are also attributed to the heart, perhaps following the Torah’s lead.
An insight on this is that the heart, besides its physical role of pumping blood throughout the body, in Judaism is given a unique role as we shall attempt to explain.
A human is not a soul — or just a body — but the union of the two. At what point in the human body do these two opposites — body and soul — meet?
The deeper sources in Torah explain that the principal seat of the soul is said to be in the brain, while the main bodily organ representing physicality is the liver. The heart is the chamber where the body and soul meet and join, fusing together to make a human being. Just as the heart pumps the oxygen-enriched blood throughout the body, providing nourishment for its cells, the heart “pumps” the connection of the soul throughout the physical body.
This idea helps explain a profound message in the tefillin. One box, comprised of four smaller boxes, is worn on the head corresponding to the four lobes of the brain. This sanctifies our thoughts. The other box, worn on the upper arm, infuses holiness into our physical actions. The latter is supposed to be tipped toward the heart, as the heart is the place where the physical and the spiritual are combined.
Not to “sway after your heart” means not to allow the physicality of the body to overcome the soul, as it potentially could, because the two are connected at the heart.
Later the Shema says to “put these words (of Torah) upon your heart”; with thoughts of Torah one’s entire being becomes a miniature tabernacle of holiness — body and soul working in unison.
This enables us to take a new look at the common statement that it’s enough to be “Jewish in the heart.” (I call that a “Jewish heart condition”!) To truly be “Jewish in the heart” one needs to combine one’s thoughts and actions to serve God; the heart combines the two. Otherwise, to just think Jewish thoughts without actions would be only “Jewish in the brain” — missing the heart!
We should strive to be wholesome, complete Jews, meshing every area of our existence into our Jewish mission, with complete hearts.

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Touching moments for my sister and me

Posted on 13 November 2019 by admin

It was a harrowing but necessary and worthwhile visit, the days I recently spent with my sister Ruth in New York. I was there to ride with her as she moved from a now-useless rehab facility to the hospice that has become her final home.
Her previous assisted living apartment was a first move from her own apartment in Scarsdale. But now she is in the city proper: in Calvary Hospital’s Palliative Care Institute, the first place people see as they leave Hutchinson Parkway to enter the Bronx.
Yes — Calvary. It sounds very Christian, and it is. Has always been, during a very long history. But that’s the hospital only. All faiths, and none are fully accommodated, are represented in hospice care. As Ruth was being moved into her room, an aide was moving out, carrying the old cross that hangs on a wall in every room until it’s no longer needed or wanted.
To care properly for its Jewish population, there is a kosher kitchen with food available at all times — not just for those living there, but also for their visitors. And among the staff are three rabbis. I met one of them during my visit; my niece Diane, who shares daily visits in rotation with her husband Charles, has met one of the others and is looking forward to talking with the third. They bring their children, ages 14 and 11, with them; Tommy and Laura are used to Grandma as she is, and are glad to see her. And although Ruth doesn’t speak much anymore, she is obviously happy to see them as well.
I myself am having trouble adjusting. Ruth is my only sibling, and is five years younger than I. But because we grew up in the same place, with many of the same experiences, I was able to “tease” some things out of her — some memories that, with prompting, floated briefly to the surface. And although she has virtually stopped talking, there was one incredible exception, so very apropos as Hanukkah approaches this year: When I asked her if she remembered, if she could recall, the years we spent in Sunday School in the little shul that was closest to our Pittsburgh home, she recited this, in toto: “I am the chicken fat — fry in me when hot. Watch the golden latkes dancing in the pot.” This was her line in a kindergarten playlet for the holiday, so many years ago! Then I knew that her brain is still functioning, although not very actively, but can be brought to life — at least briefly — by drawing on the incredible power of memory.
And then, there is this: I did not get to meet her doctor that day, but his name on Ruth’s door was familiar to me: Goldszer. This is very Jewish, but not very common, and I knew a woman with that name long ago; she was one of the folks who played bridge with my mother. So I asked niece Diane to ask him if he might know, or even possibly be related to, Bicky Goldszer. “Not ‘Becky,’ I emphasized. “BICKY.” Diane’s first post to me after I returned home might have been a shock to almost anyone else, but never to a born-and-bred member of Pittsburgh’s tight-knit Jewish community: Bicky Goldszer, now deceased, was the doctor’s mother!
When I next go to New York’s Calvary hospice, I will meet that doctor. When that will be? I don’t yet know. I’ve told Diane I’ll come again whenever she thinks I should, which needn’t wait for any ending, but will be if I can do something for my living sister. I trust my niece’s judgment because it’s based on true love for her mother and constant observation. So now, I just cry quietly while drawing new meaning from an old observation by John Milton, Britain’s great poet of several hundred years ago: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

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Lech Lecha: transformation and faith in God

Posted on 06 November 2019 by admin

This week’s Torah portion is Lech Lecha and in it we get to know Avram. At the beginning of the portion God calls out to Avram, “Lech lecha, you yourself go from your land, the place of your birth, your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you.” From that moment of divine call, a call to change oneself, a call to uproot oneself, we can see this entire portion is about personal change. Throughout this portion, Avram goes through a complete transformation.

The first transformation is his physical location, which at first glance doesn’t seem much like a personal transformation, but in reality is a trigger for one. Avram leaves his home and his family to a land he isn’t even told about before he leaves. It is a profound statement of faith in God, but it is also personally transformational because Avram is forced to be completely independent without any reliance on kinship ties that are so common in the Middle East, even to today. In Israel today, it is called protektzia or the personal connections one call rely upon to get one out of trouble or prevent it from happening in the first place. Avram was forced to forgo his family connections and learn to be strong and independent. We see Avram’s increased independence in how he interacts with his neighbors. At the beginning of the portion, he is afraid of the Egyptians and feels that he needs to resort to trickery to survive. By the end of the portion, Avram is a conquering warrior who turns the tide of battle and saves his nephew Lot during the war of the five kings against the four kings.

The second transformation is a transformation in Avram’s expectations for the future. In the beginning of the portion, Avram and Sarai are childless and Avram believes that he will have no one to inherit. By the end of the portion, he has a son, granted, with his concubine Hagar, but even more he has God’s promise that he will have an heir through Sarai. His more positive outlook is symbolized by the promise that God makes to Avram. God promises that he will have descendants and that, even though they will spend 400 years in slavery in Egypt, they will go free and become as numerous as the stars. It is a transformation of a bleak outlook, slavery in Egypt, to a limitlessly positive view of the future with innumerable descendants. Avram goes from the prospect of never having children to having more great-great-great etc. grandchildren than he could ever imagine. Avram went from a negative view of the future to a limitlessly positive view of the future.

The third transformation is Avram’s spiritual transformation. True enough: At the beginning of the portion, Avram hears God’s command, packs up and moves without even knowing where he was going. That shows a certain faith. But it takes Avram another 24 years of spiritual journey before he enters into the Covenant with God that changes him from Avram to Avraham, incorporating part of God’s name in his own name. It took 24 years of spiritual exploration before Avraham could establish with God the Covenant between God and the Jewish People.

So we see over the broad sweep of this Torah portion, that the message here is one of transformation: physical, mental and spiritual transformation. And we encounter God as a God of becoming. I am reminded of a saying attributed to Lao Tzu: “When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be.” The message I take from Lech Lecha is not to fear change, but to embrace the becoming. All that lives, grows and changes over time. Only that which was never alive remains unchanged. But God wants us to live, to be and to become, embracing the changes we encounter on our own personal journeys of transformation.

Rabbi Ben Sternman is the spiritual leader of Adat Chaverim in Plano and the vice president of the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas.

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Saying ‘thank you’: We can’t always go it alone

Posted on 06 November 2019 by admin

Dear Families,

This is the Jewish month of Cheshvan — a month with no Jewish holidays (except, of course, Shabbat). We have also entered the month of November — and we all are looking forward to the holiday of Thanksgiving. Add to this, we have made it through tornadoes! It is certainly the month to focus on the Jewish value of “hoda’ah — gratitude.” This month let’s focus on different blessings as we remember how many blessings fill our lives.

We begin each day with “Modeh Ani”:

Modeh ani lifanecha, Melech chai v’ka-yam, Shehe-che-zar-ta bi nish-mati, b’chem-la, rabbah e-mu-na-te-cha. I give thanks unto you, O everlasting One, for You have returned my soul to me in mercy. Great is your faithfulness.”

“Modeh ani” are the first words we are to say every morning — even while still in bed. We start the day thanking God for the gift of life. The belief is that each night our soul goes to heaven to recharge. In the morning, our soul is returned to us to begin again. How wonderful to see each day as a new beginning!

The blessing begins with the phrase “I give thanks.” In Hebrew, the word for thank you is “todah,” which has the meaning “to admit.” Saying thank you is admitting that you couldn’t do it alone, that you needed help and that you are thankful/grateful for the help given. Admitting you need help is difficult for some but it is also a gift that we give to others — people want to help and denying others that chance doesn’t help us or others.

Now, let’s take thank you to the next step — thanking God. We know we can’t go it alone in the world. We need family, friends, neighbors — even strangers. Does God need our thanks? Do we need God?

I will end with these two questions — each of us can ponder the answers. I must also end with thank-yous. Every person who tells me that they have read my column — thank you! It means a lot! And this past week, for everyone who reached out with care after reading “my tornado story” — thank you! And, finally for all who have helped others struggling with their tornado loss and fear — thank you! We will rebuild together as long as we wake up each day thankful.

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The Shabbat Project and Jewish unity

Posted on 06 November 2019 by admin

Dear Rabbi Fried, 

I have been hearing about some communitywide Shabbat Project coming up soon and none of my friends seem to know what this is about. Could you please fill me in? Thanks.

Carol P.

Dear Carol, 

The Shabbat Project, being held in Dallas Nov. 13-16, 2019, is part of a global initiative where Jews all across the world are observing one Shabbat together as part of Jewish unity. Approximately 1,500 partnering organizations representing about a million Jews in 340 cities in 101 countries will be participating this year!

In 2013, Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein brought the South African Jewish community together to celebrate one Shabbat together. The results were astounding. On the Shabbat on which it ran, nearly 70% of the country’s 75,000 Jews together kept a Shabbat in full, most of them for the first time in their lives. Perhaps as significantly in another way, the initiative drew people together in ways never seen before, forging new friendships and collaborations of Jews of all stripes throughout the community. 

Since then, this amazing experience has gone viral and was adopted by communities throughout the world. 

This initiative has been described as “an experiment that has no precedent in modern Jewish history,” and “the most ambitious Jewish unity initiative ever taken.” 

In the words of Rabbi Goldstein: “It’s about creating a new Jewish future together. The idea is simple; Jews from all walks of life, from across the spectrum of religious affiliation, young and old, from all corners of the world — come together to experience the magic of one full Shabbat kept together. It’s our opportunity to renew family and community life, restore Jewish identity, and unite Jews across the globe.”

In Dallas the events begin with a communitywide challah bake for women, with music, dancing, hands-on challah making instruction and words of inspiration. This exciting evening will be held at Levine Academy, 18011 Hillcrest Road, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13. All materials and special aprons will be provided. Everyone will walk away with their own challah to bake! Space is limited; please sign up ASAP at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/challah-bake-2019-shabbat-project-dallas-tickets-74022329781.

On Shabbat, Nov. 15-16, various local synagogues will provide home hospitality and meals for those who want to join for a full, magical Shabbat experience. Special speakers will grace some of these programs and will provide fresh and inspirational insights into the beauty of the experience. Contact the Hospitality Committee for local details: shabbathosting@gmail.com.

DATA (my organization) will provide a full state-of-the-art Shabbat program featuring the world-renowned Australian lecturer Rabbi Mordechai Becher, and deluxe cuisine by Kosher Palate, at Ohr HaTorah Congregation, 6324 Churchill Way. For more information and to sign up for the meals and events, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2019-shabbat-project-dallas-hosted-by-data-tickets-78563462431.

In the North Eruv, Congregation Ohev Shalom, 6821 McCallum Blvd., will celebrate the the beauty of Shabbos with Scholar-in-Residence Rabbi Aharon Katz, rosh hayeshiva of Derech Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem. Meals and hosting are also available. Contact shabbathosting@gmail.com for more details.

Saturday night, Nov. 16, Motzai Shabbat, will feature a communitywide Havdallah service on the Akiba-Yavneh campus, 12324 Merit Drive, Dallas. The free event will feature live music, a
“kumzits,” food from Kosher Palate, and bounce houses for the kids. PJ Library will make Havdallah kits with the kids and TangoTab–Feed the City will lead a community activity making sandwiches for Dallas’ needy residents. The Havdallah service will be highlighted by multi-generational families demonstrating the strength and longevity of the Dallas Jewish community. 

Please join us and the million Jews worldwide who will join hands across oceans, continents and affiliations to make this year’s Dallas Shabbat Project the greatest ever! May it bring our community together in friendship and mutual respect in ways never thought possible! 

For more information, contact ShabbosProjectDallas@gmail.com. 

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Being there for my sister

Posted on 06 November 2019 by admin

I write this while at my desk at home, thinking of where I’ll be next week at this time — in Scarsdale, New York, staying with my niece and her family so that I can spend time with my only sister, my niece’s mother, who is in the process of moving (or “being moved” is more accurate) from a rehab center in nearby Rye Brook to hospice care — place as yet to be determined. Her time, according to her doctors, may be very short. Or not. 

For sisters, the only two children in our family, the five years in age between us put us into virtually different generations — we really didn’t “catch up” with each other until both of us were married and had children. But even then, time was different, as it is now: I already have two great-grandchildren; she has two grandchildren, the oldest of whom is just in high school. 

We were never in the same school at the same time. I was married and a mother by the time she graduated from college, and our college experiences were very different: I chose the big university in the city; she chose a small women’s college, because she believed — early on — that girls were held back by teachers who favored male students. 

My sister did well in her undergraduate setting, despite the fact that she is — and has always been — bipolar. It’s a tribute to her ability to cope, to accept counseling and medication as lifetime necessities, that she went on to get two other degrees: a master’s in history and an MBA. But despite the latter, her work was always in high school history teaching. She did well, but not as well as she might have done had she not been subject to the mood swings associated with her condition. 

I was already married and mother of two when she came to Chicago to live — not with me, but near me; unmarried young women were not encouraged to go off on their own in those pre-feminist days. She shared an apartment with a friend from school, but there were many mornings — especially in the dark ones of Chicago winters — when I had to be at her place to roust her out of bed and make sure she was dressed and ready to go to school. Her students loved her; when she taught in New York’s Spanish Harlem after her own marriage, kids who had little or no use for school would cut all their classes except hers. For them, she was a performer; she learned rebel yells and folksongs, accompanying herself on the guitar. And once, when someone stole her hubcaps during a school day, those students offered to go out themselves and steal some to replace them!

Not all the memories are bad, but not all are good, either. We were never quite “the same”; it was always Big Sister and Little Sister. She herself had two daughters, but they were close in age, only one year apart in school, so they were friends as they grew up. However, they suffered in adulthood as their mother separated them: She depended on one and cut herself off from the other, making the one she depended on just as dependent on her, and cut off from her sister as well. 

All families are different. I know that. None, I suspect, are really “normal,” whatever that is — if you can get into them and truly know them. My sister hasn’t spoken to me for several years, no matter how hard I’ve tried to reopen the doors of communication that she herself closed. But today, when she can no longer speak, her daughter — the one she hasn’t talked to in years — tells me that my sister keeps the Shanah Tovah note I sent to her this year on her bedside table, and smiles when she looks at it. 

I wish my family were different in a different way. 

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‘Race’ is a 4-letter word

Posted on 31 October 2019 by admin

Whoever we are and whatever we do in life, we are all being asked, many times over the years, to choose our race from a given list.
It may be a job application, health insurance or medical form, driver’s and marriage licenses, or school form; the list goes on and on.
No matter what justification is sometimes given, such as the need to identify individuals having a predisposition to certain diseases, the true purpose may lie elsewhere.
As recently reported in The New York Times marriage announcement section, a couple applying for a marriage license in Virginia refused to provide their race on the marriage license application, of which there were 200 choices including Aryan, Mulatto, Nubian and Octoroon (a person who is one-eighth black by descent).
The couple found the terms to be offensive and scientifically baseless.
They joined a class-action lawsuit which resulted in Virginia’s attorney general ordering court clerks to eliminate the “race” requirement.
Georgia and Louisiana, however, continue to require “racial information.”
We should never forget the use of racial profiling by Adolf Hitler and his attempt to create a superior Aryan race by eliminating those he deemed “inferior” such as Jews; Roma, also known as Gypsies; etc.
Who among the non-Jewish German population spoke up as their Jewish neighbors were disappearing during the Holocaust?
The “alt-right” White Nationalists, KKK, American Nazi Party and their ilk thrive on the concept of racial superiority. They even have referred to Jews as a race rather than a religion.
Renowned sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, more than 100 years ago, expressed concern that race was being used as a biological term for what he felt were actually social and cultural differences.
The greater science community today agrees. Scientific scholars state that racial concepts in genetic research need to go.
Many people today, as they investigate their ancestry, are realizing for the first time that their family roots reveal a multiethnic heritage.
There has historically been tremendous assimilation through the centuries of various ethnic groups. There is no “pure” or unmixed group.
We should celebrate our ethnic heritage, whatever it may be, and bury the racial stereotypes forever.

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