Monday, April 23, 2012

I am a Zionist

I am a Zionist, a liberal Zionist, a “beautiful soul” as my detractors would have it, and “I will not die but live” (Psalm 118:17) because my mission is too important. I am an heir to that divine command, “Walk in my ways and be innocent (Genesis 17:1).” And I take my inheritance seriously.

My identity was ascribed in Egypt and assumed at Sinai. Not only did I chose to be a Jew, I was also labeled one, but I will not allow labels to tell me who I am; not by Pharaoh, not by the Romans, not by the Spanish, or even the Nazis. I will continue to “choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19),” as my earliest teachers prescribed, and I will do so from a position of independence, not fear. I am a Jew.

I will not make idols out of land, nor put ideals before human lives. I am a Jew.

I will not censor, nor deal falsely, nor lie to cover my shame. I am a Jew.

I will rebuke my fellow and try not to transgress in the process because I am bound to all of Israel. I am a Jew.

I shall not defraud my neighbor, nor rob him of his land or his human rights. I am a Jew.

The wages of my foreign laborers will not remain with me all night until the morning, nor shall I exile his children from the land of their birth. I am a Jew.

I shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, because I seek honest discourse with just outcomes. I am a Jew.

I will not stand idly by as the blood of my neighbors is shed by my own countrymen. I am a Jew.

I will not hate my brother in my heart; and will reason with my neighbor, and not allow sin on either account. I am a Jew

I will not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of my people but shall continue to love my neighbor as myself. I am a Jew

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bully movie embraced by BBYO, Kudos! What about the rest of us?

I read this morning about the adoption, by BBYO, of the noble goal to have loads of Jewish teens see the Bully movie, and I think that is wonderful. It did, however, make me think about the rest of us. I'm thinking specifically about Peter Beinart's recent book, The Crisis of Zionism, which has made us all come to the table and discuss the issues surrounding our embrace of Israel. Unfortunately, it seems that everytime we have a difference of opinion these days we end up calling those we differ from either Nazis or self-hating Jews.
As this is the time of the counting of the Omer, and we are mourning the loss of the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died in a plague which is reported to be the result of in-fighting (Yevamot 62b), I would like to take this space to wish for my people the following prayer from Rabbis for Human Rights.
May I recognize my failure to understand those who oppose me. May I be able to look at the face of my enemy and see the face of God. May we all be instruments of peace.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If I was Ozzie Guillen

The big irony of the Ozzie Guillen-Fidel Castro episode is that it happened over easter weekend. Please don't take this in the wrong way, but it sounds like Jesus got his and now Ozzie is the new sacrifice. Of course, Jesus wasn't sacrificed. He was censored in the strongest sense of the word, and now it is Ozzie's turn. Unfortunately for him, the anti-Castro Cuban community is almost as strong as the 1st century Roman empire.
One major difference between these two examples is that Jesus had a soft and gentle message for people living under Roman oppression, while Ozzie was insensitive to a bunch of angry and powerful emigres who occupy the city where he manages a baseball franchise. But what was so bad about Ozzie's message? If I were Ozzie Guillen, I would have responded much differently.

Members of the press, Marlins fans and people of the western hemisphere, I want to take this opportunity to apologize for my hurtful comments. Sometimes I say things that I haven't thought through well enough, and clearly I have hurt some feelings, which I never intended to do. I didn't come here to Miami to hurt feelings. I came to bring pride to a city with millions of Latin Americans, like me. I am a baseball manager, not a politician or historian. I don't know enough about Fidel Castro to have made comprehensive comments about the man's life. That said, my comments were about his longevity. He has managed to stay in power, under extreme odds, for over half a century. I couldn't even stay with the White Sox for a decade, and I brought them to the World Series.
If I were really bold and had brought Miami to a World Series before facing this firing squad, I might add...

Since I now have to take responsibility for my comments, I would like to take this opportunity to teach something about this man that you have vilified. Fidel Castro came to the United Nations, upon his ascension to power, and promised full literacy for his people within a year. Before he came to power, just over half of all Cubans could read and write, but within one year of his promise, 99 percent of Cubans were literate. Also, despite the fact that wealth was redistributed by force, Castro created, universal health care for Cubans, something tens of millions of Americans don't have. Today, in Cuba, all children go to high quality public schools. All citizens have housing, employment and food. They may not enjoy the freedom to amass great wealth, but they all have the freedom to go to bed with food in their stomachs. So while I can understand the pain of those who left their country and their wealth because they were not willing to share it with their fellow country men and women, I completely resent this effort to stifle my freedom of expression, the constitutionally guaranteed right that makes this country great. I didn't exercise my freedom with the intention to hurt, and I am sorry for any pain I have caused, but if you don't want to watch the baseball team under my management because you want to make a political statement, that's fine, just don't be so selfish as to try to determine the future of Miami baseball based on your political baggage. That behavior has no place in any country, especially this one.