New York Philharmonic Clarinetist Takes Two Knees to Protest Racism

There are four moving musical videos within the article (link below).

After the musicians play so beautifully, they all go down on their knees in an attitude of prayer and solidarity against racism and injustice and in affirmation of Black Lives Matter.

The musicians are Anthony McGill (clarinet), Allison Loggins-Hull (flute), Laurence Brownlee (voice), and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Annapolis Symphony Academy, The Northwest School in Seattle, Washington, and Antigua & Barbuda Youth Symphony Orchestra.

https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2020/06/15/clarinetist-anthony-mcgill

How Political Experts say the Democrats can win the 2020 Election

In thinking about how Joe Biden and Democrats can win their respective races in the 2020 election, I’ve been paying close attention to a number of Democratic and former Republican political analysts and talking heads. They all acknowledge Donald Trump’s deep personal flaws and failures as a leader, but they warn against Democratic over-confidence. Though 2020 is different than 2016 in a number of ways, they remind us that Trump won once and he could win again.

I list here Trump’s historic failures as President and offer a synthesis of what these political pundits agree can bring victory to the Democrats.

Trump’s failures:

  • The Trump administration is, without question, the most incompetent, chaotic, and corrupt in our lifetime, perhaps in the history of the United States;
  • Trump has disastrously mismanaged the pandemic and resulting economic catastrophe;
  • Trump’s serial lying, self-delusion and denial, fantastical thinking, and disdain for scientific advice and empirical evidence of the threat of the coronavirus unnecessarily killed tens of thousands of Americans who ought to be alive today with possibly more than 200,000 deaths by Election Day;
  • Trump constantly divides the nation through his demagogic and racist dog-whistle white supremacy;
  • Trump every day sullies the office of the President through his coarse and nasty rhetoric, tweets, and behavior, his personal attacks against critics, political opponents and journalists, and his bullying anyone who doesn’t play nicely to his malignant narcissism;
  • Trump has broken more social and political norms than any President in modern history;
  • Trump has undermined America’s Intelligence organizations, the State Department, the Military, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department, and others;
  • Trump has dramatically diminished international respect for the United States by withdrawing from international agreements and alliances, catering to despots, insulting allies, scapegoating international institutions for his own failures, making America a global health risk, and worst of all, betraying our men and women in uniform;

All of the above are reasons enough to defeat him and his Congressional Republican sycophants in November. However, it is likely that the large margins that Joe Biden and many Democrats now enjoy will shrink between now and Election Day.

To win big means that not only do we need constantly to shine a light on Trump’s manifest failures as President, but to engage more citizens to vote against him who are and have been marginal to the political process in the past, who have not voted before, and who believe  that their vote does not matter. It does. We can’t forget that Trump won the Electoral College because 80,000 votes in 3 states went to him thus giving him the election even though he lost the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.87 million votes.

Though it ought to be clear that this election is about a president’s integrity, common decency, empathy, civility, competence, and steady leadership, these virtues may not be enough to bring the needed numbers of people to vote Blue unless we do everything we can to bring out the vote.

To get people to vote, the experts all agree that this election must be about issues that affect American’s quality of life. Specifically, it’s about

  • saving the Affordable Care Act and expanding health care to millions of Americans
  • envisioning a Green New Deal that will reverse climate change while creating millions of high paying jobs
  • reforming the immigration and criminal justice systems and community policing
  • supporting small businesses and helping the working class to earn a living wage
  • getting government assistance to help pay down student debt and helping students pay for the education they need and deserve
  • fighting the NRA and enacting sensible gun registration laws
  • appointing judges who will support LGBTQ people and a woman’s right to choose and  preserve the independence of the courts and the Justice Department from encroachments by the Executive Branch
  • enfranchising through statehood 700,000 Washington, D.C. American citizens
  • restoring the United States as the international leader on behalf of human rights, the environment, justice, and peace.

Above all, it’s about electing officials who are committed to strengthening human solidarity by regarding all Americans as fellow human beings deserving of dignity and respect regardless of race, class, ethnicity, national origins, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.   

To win big, the political experts all say that we need to focus our attention and resources on winning core battle-ground swing states for Biden and candidates for the Senate and Congress. They argue that social media will be the critically important tool in this election and that all of us can make a difference by using social media to persuade the people we know (family, friends, co-workers, and others) in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Arizona to vote for Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot. 

Republicans have 23 Senate seats (mostly in Red states) to defend, compared to the 12 Senate Democrats who are up for reelection. Four states are highly competitive for Democrats and now have Senate seats held by Republicans that could switch: Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina. Several more Senate seats are in play for Democrats as well including Montana, Georgia, and Iowa.

If Democrats win the White House, a majority of the Senate, and grow our margins in the House, November 3 can be the corrective to 4 years of corrupt and hard hearted Trumpism and the beginning of a new era of American democracy.

In sum, these experts remind us that

  • Every vote matters.
  • People should vote by mail and vote early. It’s a mistake to wait until the day of voting itself. The more people who vote early, the shorter will be the lines on Election Day. Every core battle-ground state has vote-by-mail despite Trump’s histrionics. If people don’t receive their ballots, they need to vote anyway, to put on their masks and gloves and stand in line for a few hours, if necessary, to vote.
  • Polls giving Biden and Congressional candidates the advantage now could lead to over-confidence in November. Over-confidence could cause us to lose this election. We need to think and act as though we’re behind in every race.
  • Current polls showing Biden’s lead are not necessarily real. The numbers certainly will tighten come Election Day.
  • It will be harder this time for a lot of Americans to vote because of Covid19, voter malfeasance, Russian interference, and deliberate Republican attempts to suppress the vote. Democrats will need, therefore, a substantial surplus of votes heading into the election.
  • Young adults historically do not vote in large numbers relative to their percentage of the population, nor do Latino citizens. Therefore, we need to impress upon our adult children, grandchildren, and Latino friends to vote, and that they need to get their peers to vote.

Feel free to use any of the above without attribution to disseminate in your own social media as we move towards November 3.

The Greek island that hid its Jews from the Nazis – By Tassoula Eptakili

“Chaim Constantinidis tells the extraordinary story of Zakynthos’s Jewish community, the subject of two upcoming productions

In the late spring of 1944, Nazi ships of death were making stops in the ports of the Ionian Islands. They had stowed 2,000 Jews from Corfu in their holds and another 400 from Cephalonia, and were heading for Zakynthos. The mission of the SS squads was to round up all of the members of the Jewish community in the region and sail them to the western port city of Patra, where they would be transferred onto trains for Auschwitz.

…The story is set to come alive on the big screen in two American productions: The first is “No Man Is an Island,” a documentary directed by Yannis Sakaridis, and the second a feature film by Theo Papadoulakis, which is still in the making. Two Greek Americans are behind the projects, producers Gregory Pappas and Steven Priovolos, who rallied eminent members of the diaspora in the US and, of course, Hollywood, behind the projects. One of the executive producers is Sid Ganis, a former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences whose Greek-Jewish family hails from Ioannina in northwestern Greece.”

This is a remarkable and inspiring story – see full article here:

https://www.ekathimerini.com/161394/article/ekathimerini/community/the-greek-island-that-hid-its-jews-from-the-nazis

Sign petition against eviction of Sumarin Family from its Home in Silwan

On June 11, I wrote in my Times of Israel blog to ask JNF-Israel not to evict the Sumarin Family from its home of 50 years in Silwan just South of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls. This is a matter of fairness and justice.

Here is that blog – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/jnf-israel-dont-uproot-the-sumarin-family-from-its-home-in-silwan/ It in I explain the issue and list a number of articles in the Israeli press that goes into greater depth.

Here is a short video that interviews the Sumarin family.

I ask you now to sign the petition lending your own support for the Sumarin family that has lived in its home for more than 50 years. I also ask you to forward this blog with your own request through your social media to ask others to sign the petition.

Many thanks in advance.

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/prevent-the-eviction-of-the-sumarin-family

APEIROGON – By Colum McCann – Book Recommendation

Colum McCann’s new novel Apeirogon is based on the actual murder of two young girls, 13-year-old Smadar Elhanan who lost her life when three Palestinian suicide bombers exploded themselves on Ben Yehuda Street in West Jerusalem on September 4, 1997, and 10-year-old Abir Aramin who was shot in the back of the head ten years later in Anata just four kilometers Northeast of Jerusalem’s Old City by an 18-year-old Israeli soldier as his jeep sped around a corner.

The girls’ fathers, Rami Elhanan (an Israeli Jew) and Bassam Aramin (a Palestinian Muslim) met at the Hotel Everest between Jerusalem and Bethlehem through Combatants for Peace, an organization of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters who shared one thing in common, “that both sides had once wanted to kill people they did not know.”

For my review of the book, see my blog at the Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/apeirogon-by-colum-mccann-book-recommendation/ .

American Lawmakers Have Just Weeks to Take a Stand Against Annexation – Los Angeles Jewish Journal, June 16, 2020

Yesterday, the LA Jewish Journal printed my op-ed that called upon American lawmakers to make clear that annexation is a reckless and destructive step that would have serious long-term ramifications for the region and for the American-Israeli relationship.

See – https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/opinion/317501/american-lawmakers-just-weeks-to-take-a-stand-against-annexation/

JNF-Israel – Don’t uproot the Sumarin family from its home in Silwan!

On June 30th, 2020, Israeli courts are scheduled to hear the final appeal of a case in which JNF-Israel through its subsidiary organization Himanuta will seek to evict the Palestinian Sumarin family from its long-time home in Silwan, East Jerusalem only steps south of the Old City walls.

I posted at the Times of Israel a blog that gives a fuller explanation including background articles, a suggested email protest text, and email addresses at JNF-Israel where you can join me in protesting the JNF actions to expel this family of 18 from its long-time home.

If you feel as I do that this is a gross injustice, please follow through and email your own letter of protest – see https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/jnf-israel-dont-uproot-the-sumarin-family-from-its-home-in-silwan/  

A Sermon Worth Watching

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, the Senior Rabbi of the Stephen S. Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan, spoke with eloquence and power on Friday evening from his congregation’s bimah by zoom about George Floyd’s death and justice.

The link to Ammi’s 25-minute sermon is below, or you can read a pdf of it by clicking at the lower right on the screen.

https://www.swfs.org/resources/senior-rabbis-messages/george-floyd/

A Growing Crisis in the American Jewish Community

It’s often difficult for American Jews to focus our attention on anything other than the multiple crises facing the United States today. However, there’s another crisis that has been growing over the past few years within the liberal American Jewish community that needs our attention, our relationship with the State of Israel.

I have posted a blog at the Times of Israel that addresses this here:  

https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-growing-crisis-in-the-american-jewish-community/ .

Here is a link to the Webinar in which Rabbi Stanley Davids and I spoke on Leil Shavuot before Temple Sinai of Oakland, California. The Webinar itself – https://oaklandsinai.box.com/s/cg17caiw971ino5ls9xhxofy5qkau6ly

Marra Gad – a Mixed-Race Jew Speaks Out

I reached out this morning to my friend Marra Gad, who lives in Los Angeles and is the author of a moving memoir The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl. She shared with me what she sent out to her friends yesterday.I asked her permission to post and she graciously gave it. She wrote:

“I send my heartfelt thanks to those of you who have reached out to me over the last day or so to say that you are supporting me…and that you see me.

Sprinkled among the messages, however, have been notes saying that people support me, but that there is surprise that I am so affected by the murder of George Floyd, the racism and the violence because….

“…you’re not really black.”

“…I don’t think of you as black.”

“…I don’t see your color.”

My brother and I were discussing this last night, and he rightly pointed out that the brutal murder of George Floyd should affect every single person on the planet. Simply because we are human, and the act was so sub-human on every level.  And if it isn’t affecting you, I would encourage you to ask yourself why.

But for those of us who are black, bi or multi racial, the impact is intensified.  And I am absolutely on that list.  

I am black…white…and Jewish.  That is my wholeness. I am here to be seen for all that I am…and I will not allow anyone to deny any part of me. 

Look at me.  See my color.  How beautiful and powerful I am. See that my strength and lifeforce comes from being black. Just as it comes from being Jewish.

The world has tried for far too long to keep black and brown people invisible.  And a part of what is happening right now in the streets of America is the voice of the people demanding to be heard saying NO MORE.  It is a demand to be seen.   And my voice is with them.

If you cannot or will not see and honor me for all that I am, you do not see me at all.  And if you do not choose to see all of me, you are not being my ally or my supporter.

Marra B. Gad”