Sunday, April 28, 2019

Normalizing antisemitism in American life

Today was a pretty good day for me personally, but a rotten day for me as a Jew in America.

Three reasons:


1) The attack on the Chabad synagogue today, in Poway, California, by a murderous white nationalist who spewed the same ideology as the murderer of 50 Muslims in New Zealand a month ago. He also claims to have committed arson at a California mosque, so he is clearly a hater of anyone he thinks threatens white supremacy. If you look at his manifesto (not something I recommend if you'd like to be cheerful the rest of the day), you'll see that he espouses the Nazi ideology that blames Jews for all the ills of the world, including immigration by brown people to the United States (legal or undocumented); he's very much like the man who attacked the Pittsburgh synagogue exactly six months ago, who was motivated by the fantastical belief that Jews are responsible for migrants from central American (and other parts of the world) seeking asylum in the US. His manifesto is also full of hate for African Americans and Arabs (not going to repeat the slurs he uses).


2) Learning about the antisemitic cartoon published on Thursday in the international edition of the New York Times. Of the New York Times! Have they fired all their editors? Or decided to hire only antisemitic ones? How did this cartoon even get printed?




The cartoon shows a blind Donald Trump, wearing thick eyeglasses (with black lenses), wearing a black yarmulke, with Benjamin Netanyahu as his seeing-eye dog, with a blue star of David around his neck - with the obvious message that Bibi the Jew controls Trump. I think the yarmulke on Trump's head is meant to convey the idea that he has surrendered to the Jews and even identifies with them. Or perhaps it's meant to refer to the fact that his daughter Ivanka is Jewish and that he has Jewish grandchildren - in any case, it's antisemitic.


As the following commenter responds on Twitter:

The same commenter also wrote, "The cartoon doesn't even have anything to do with the article below. It's as if the editors went, "interesting article, but we need more anti Semitism."

How did the Times respond?


Not an apology, or even a statement of "regret" - just an "error of judgement." Whose error of judgement? Who drew this cartoon, and which editor approved its placement in the international edition? At least the statement acknowledges that the cartoon "included anti-Semitic tropes." I will be interested to read what Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens have to say about the cartoon, since they are both eager to decry antisemitism when it occurs in other places.

3) There is a Facebook page called "Rise Up Ocean County," set up by someone who is upset that ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in Lakewood, New Jersey, are moving out of Lakewood and buying houses in nearby towns (because the population of Lakewood is growing quickly and people are seeking somewhat less expensive housing). About 11,000 follow the page, and there are posts both by the admin and by followers. Some are about real issues of overdevelopment, but there are frequent antisemitic posts and comments.


The admin of the page posted earlier today about the antisemitic cartoon in the Times.




A number of people in the subsequent comment thread wrote that they did think the cartoon was in bad taste or antisemitic, but there were a number of antisemitic remarks.

One woman wrote, "Antisemitic and in poor taste," to which the page admin replied, "Help me here. How is that anti Semitic?"


Another response was an antisemitic cartoon:




Just browsing quickly, I found a couple of other antisemitic posts by followers of the page (names of the posters not included - my purpose is not to target any individual, but to indicate that this page has no trouble publishing obvious antisemitism while claiming really to be concerned about overdevelopment and corruption).


Another post was a complaint about ultra-Orthodox Jews going to nearby beaches. Complaining about people littering on beaches is not antisemitic. But calling them "gods chosen people" is.


A couple of years ago NJ.com published a series about Lakewood and issues with housing, overdevelopment, busing of Orthodox students to private Jewish schools, and corruption - without stooping to the antisemitism frequently found in this Facebook group. For the first article, and links to subsequent ones, go to https://www.nj.com/news/2017/08/window_on_lakewood_inside_the_fastest-growing_comm.html.

What are the lessons to learn from this evidence of antisemitism in a variety of American venues: 1) at this moment, the most violent and dangerous form of antisemitism is to be found among white nationalists; but 2) antisemitism is not restricted to people on the extreme right, although that may be the most murderous version of it; 3) even well-respected American institutions like the New York Times can be blind to the very antisemitic tropes that they publish; 4) ordinary Americans who don't belong to the white nationalist right or the anti-Zionist far left are also prey to antisemitic stereotypes, and employ them when encountering visible Jews doing things they don't like.

White nationalist terrorism is obviously the most immediate threat to Jews - we've now had two murderous attacks in six months. How many other killers are now planning to attack synagogues or other Jewish places? These killers are part of the same racist white nationalist movement that attacks LGBT people, Muslims, Sikhs, African American churches, and Latinx people, and it offers distinctive threats to members of each group. The killer in Poway hated many of these groups, and claims to have attacked a mosque as well as the synagogue. 

The kind of antisemitism espoused by the Times cartoon could come from either the right or the left, and belongs to the conspiratorial antisemitism that believes "the Jews" run the world and are responsible for everything evil in the world. It's also dangerous, because it underlies murderous white nationalist antisemitism (as well as far left antisemitism that blames Jews and Israel as "imperialists" in league with the US and other western powers).

The antisemitism displayed in Rise Up Ocean County seems to be composed of various stereotypes of ultra-Orthodox Jews combined with classic denunciations of Jews being clannish and sticking with their own exclusively, as well as bitter remarks about how rich they must also be, and snide antisemitic remarks like the one about the "chosen people." In my opinion, this is the kind of antisemitism that is more likely to result in Jews being discriminated against in housing or employment, not in violent reactions (but I could be wrong - there have been a number of anti-Jewish hate crimes reported in Lakewood). There is a real conflict going on over scarce resources - housing and tax dollars - but some people express this in antisemitic terms.

It's exhausting to have to deal with all of this, and I'm quite apprehensive about the future in America.



Some additional articles on the New York Times cartoon:


Apology from New York Times Opinion:

Criticism from CNN's Brian Stelter:



NYT staffers are alarmed and dismayed by this anti-Semitic cartoon AND by the paper's initial response. 
It started on Thursday when print editions of the international edition of The New York Times ran an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog on a leash held by a blind POTUS. Most US staffers knew nothing about it until they read about this editor's note on Saturday. The note admitted that the cartoon was an "error in judgment," but didn't go into any detail about what went wrong. Some news outlets inaccurately called the note an "apology," which it wasn't, which led people to wonder why the NYT hadn't actually apologized. 
Jake Tapper commented on Sunday morning that the cartoon "could just have easily appeared in ISIS or neo-Nazi propaganda." 
Per three plugged-in sources at the NYT, staffers were alarmed to see the image in the first place -- and dismayed that the initial response was so feeble. They told me that they wanted a more detailed explanation... 
Awaiting more info... 
After a barrage of criticism,The Times issued a statement on Sunday afternoon saying "we are deeply sorry" for the cartoon, and "we are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again."
The NYT said the decision to run the syndicated cartoon was made by a single editor working without adequate oversight. "The matter remains under review, and we are evaluating our internal processes and training," the statement said. "We anticipate significant changes."
The paper is out with its own news story about the situation... And Bret Stephens, one of the paper's op-ed columnists, has a clear-eyed column titled "A Despicable Cartoon in The Times."
Stephens said he is certain that the Times is not guilty of institutional anti-Semitism, but he said the cartoon was a sign of the Times' ongoing criticism of Zionism and the Israeli government. Here is his column... And our news story...

See also: https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/28/media/ny-times-anti-semitic-cartoon/index.html.

New York Times article about the cartoon: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/28/business/ny-times-anti-semitic-cartoon.html.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"He should resign and be tried for his crimes" - our traitor President

From Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:
The simple takeaway from the Mueller Report is the President betrayed his country and spent two years lying and breaking the law to try to hide that fact. He should resign and be tried for his crimes.

Monday, April 15, 2019

"Our hearts are with the ... legends of Notre Dame, real and fictional"

Photo is from the AP (Thibault Camus), April 15, 2019

Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, on Twitter: 
@notredameparis is one of the most beautiful symbols of #Paris and of #France, and also one of its most important cultural symbols. In January, I looked over the skyline of the city and the spires of the cathedral made it even more beautiful.  Our hearts are with the people of #France and the legends of @notredameparis, real and fictional, and we pray it will stand in eternity.
4 hours ago

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Beresheet - Israeli spacecraft, crashes on the Moon

Beresheet got very close to the moon, but didn't succeed with a controlled landing. These are a couple of photos from it - the first one is a "selfie" with the moon in the background, the second is another photo of the moon from the spacecraft.



The last photo Beresheet took before it crashed.
It was 22 km above the surface of the Moon.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Changes at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

From the Times of Israel:

Report: Temple Mount section sealed since 2003 reopened to Palestinians


MK Ahmad Tibi visits compound, calls for full Muslim control at Al-Aqsa and the barring of ‘settlers and Jewish politicians from the right’

By TOI STAFF and AP 23 February 2019, 5:06 pm



Palestinian worshipers gather before Friday noon prayers at the premises of the Golden Gate in al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 22, 2019 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

A section of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount that has been closed by Israeli court order for over 15 years was reopened to Palestinian worshipers Saturday, Army Radio reported.

It was not immediately clear who had ordered the reopening of the Gate of Mercy, or Golden Gate, or what was the cause for the reversal in policy.

MK Ahmad Tibi of the joint Hadash-Ta’al party visited the compound by the Al-Aqsa Mosque and said its opening was “an important and significant step.”

He added that Muslims and the Waqf, custodians of the holy site, “should be given full control of the mosque, without the entry of settlers and Jewish politicians from the right,” according to Army Radio.

On Friday thousands of Palestinian protesters chanting “Allahu Akbar” streamed into the sealed-off area of Al-Aqsa during prayers. Israeli police said the crowds dispersed peacefully afterward.

The Gate of Mercy was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 because the group managing the area had ties to Hamas, and it has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work there by the Waqf. Israeli officials believe the work has led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area.

Tensions have escalated at the contested compound. Similar protests turned into scuffles with police earlier this week. Anticipating unrest, police arrested 60 Palestinians Thursday overnight suspected of “causing disturbances.”

Police accused the Waqf of trying to “change the status quo” at the sensitive site by convening in the closed area last week.

The Temple Mount, the location of the biblical Jewish Temples, and now of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine, has in recent years become an epicenter of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian fears about purported Israeli plans to change the 52-year arrangement on the Temple Mount — where the Waqf maintains administrative control and the Israel Police security control — have become a daily staple in Palestinian political rhetoric and media reports in recent years. Multiple car-rammings, stabbings and shootings have been attributed by Palestinian attackers to the alleged efforts by Israel to alter the status quo at the site, according to which Jews may visit but not pray there.

The Israeli government has insisted it does not intend to change the status quo.

New push for divestment from Cornell's pro-BDS groups

Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine are starting a new campaign to get Cornell to divest from Israel companies that they consider "war-profiteering." Five years ago they tried to get the Student Assembly to approve their divestment vote, with complete lack of success. [Their account is that a "sickeningly racist campus climate revealed itself" when the Assembly voted to table the resolution, but the account by Legal Insurrection that shows there's no basis for their claim that racism led to the rejection of BDS]. Now they're trying again, in an announcement replete with florid denunciations. I particularly like the rhetorical flourish that Cornell is guilty of being built on "stolen Cayuga land," as if that has anything to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So in 2019, BDS measures will unravel differently. at this Ivory Tower on stolen Cayuga land. BDS will be put “back on the table” in the form of a Student Assembly resolution authored by SJP and backed by 20+ organizations. We will publicly name endowment investments in war-profiteering Israeli entities, demand immediate action to secure their severance, and hold university leadership responsible for complicity in crimes of apartheid.

Check out the letter delivered to President Martha Pollack Monday morning. We are thankful for the Palestine support and solidarity present on Cornell's campus.
They haven't yet named the "war-profiteering Israeli entities" that they demand the administration take out of the Cornell endowment.

Legal Insurrection, a conservative blog run by Cornell law professor William Jacobson, has more details and will I'm sure follow this story closely. I tend not to agree with him on other political issues, but I think he's usually on the mark when it comes to the BDS movement.

Netanyahu welcomes Kahanists into Israeli mainstream politics

Israel goes to elections on April 9 for a new Knesset (parliament).

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel (leader of the Likud Party), who has a possible indictment for corruption hanging over his head, has just organized a merger between the Bayit Yehudi party ("Jewish Home" party, including its faction "National Union," led by Bezalel Smotrich) and the Otzma Yehudit party ("Jewish Power" party). The name of the new party is "Ihud Mifleget ha-Yamin" - Union of Right-Wing Parties. As Gershom Gorenberg writes in the Washington Post, "Netanyahu’s Faustian pact with the racist right is about saving his own skin."

Otzma Yehudit has no members in the current Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while Bayit Yehudi is one of Netanyahu's coalition partners. Bayit Yehudi lost two of its leaders, Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, when they left to form their own party - "New Right" - with the goal of uniting religious and secular right-wing nationalists.

What is the platform of the New Right party?

From the Israel Policy Forum:
West Bank Area C annexation, which would necessitate the formalization of an apartheid regime, is a central plank for the party. Other Hayamin Hehadash candidates include Shuli Mualem, an MK with theocratic leanings, and Caroline Glick, who supports annexing the West Bank in its entirety with a political litmus test for Palestinian residents. Thus, the strongest distinction between Hayamin Hehadash members from their peers in the smaller rightist lists is that Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are telegenic and make a point of presenting a cleaner, camera-friendly image.
Bezalel Smotrich

According to the Israel Policy Forum, "The rump party left in their wake contained its most extreme subgroup, Tkuma, headed up by Bezalel Smotrich. Then the list risked splitting again, with Rabbi Rafi Peretz handed the reins to Bayit Yehudi (a job Smotrich wanted) and forced to renegotiate the umbrella Bayit Yehudi relationship with Tkuma."

IPF says of Smotrich:

There should be no mistaking just how extreme Tkuma is. Faction leader Bezalel Smotrich espouses openly racist and homophobic views without any of the usual sugarcoating. Tkuma supports Israeli annexation of the entire West Bank, going even further than Bennett and Shaked, whose aim to absorb Area C (60 percent of the land) is itself absurd. Meanwhile, Smotrich co-founded the NGO Regavim, which advocates against Bedouin building within Israel and petitions for the destruction of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories. The group already receives funding from local governments in the West Bank settlements.
What is the Otzma Yehudit party? IPF writes that Otzma Yehudit is the party of Baruch Marzel, who "got his start in the now-illegal Kach party of fundamentalist Rabbi Meir Kahane." In the 2015 election, the Israeli Supreme Court blocked him from running for Knesset. "Smotrich is pushing the idea of a merger between Tkuma, Bayit Yehudi, Otzma Yehudit, and Yachad (former Shas leader Eli Yishai’s party)."

More on the leaders of Otzma Yehudit:

Otzma is led by students of Rabbi Meir Kahane, including former MK Michael Ben-Ari, Hebron activist Baruch Marzel, Benzi Gopstein, who leads an organization opposing Jewish-Muslim marriages, and far-right activist attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir. Kahane was elected to the Knesset in the 1980s and subsequently banned on grounds of racist incitement; Marzel was his parliamentary aide.
What are the policies supported by Otzma Yehudit:
Established in 2012 as Otzma Leyisrael by Ben Ari and Ayreh Eldad, many of the views espoused by the party are akin to those backed by some of the Knesset’s most hardline MKs — annexation of the entire West Bank and unrestricted settlement construction; opposition to a Palestinian state and punitive military operations in response to terror attacks; further emphasis on Israel’s Jewish character in the education, social, and judicial systems. 
However, the ultra-nationalist party adds to those positions a host of more overtly racist ones. It supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel, and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty and accept sub-equal status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank — the biblical Judea and Samaria. It also calls for a termination of the fragile status quo on the Temple Mount. 
On February 20, Bayit Yehudi and National Union (headed by Smotrich) agreed to run as a united faction, with Otzma Yehudit agreeing to run together with them but to retain its independence. 

Netanyahu's inducements for the union of the parties

This is how Netanyahu worked to unite the two factions:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday reached a preliminary election deal with two fringe religious-nationalist parties in a bid to unify his voting bloc ahead of April elections. 
Netanyahu’s Likud party announced it would reserve the 28th spot on its Knesset list for the Bayit HaYehudi party and grant it two Cabinet ministries in a future government if it merges with the extreme right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party led by Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari.

The agreement also includes the National Union, bringing the Bayit Yehudi’s partner from the previous elections back into the fold for the upcoming ones. The three parties will now run a joint list for the upcoming elections.
Otzma Yehudit will receive the fifth and eighth seats in the united list. Netanyahu also offered the Education and Housing portfolio to the united list. 

American Jewish groups denounce the merger of Otzma Yehudit with Bayit Yehudi, with some mentioning Netanyahu's role, and others eliding it

Several American Jewish groups have denounced the merger of Bayit Yehudi with Otzma Yehudit because of the possibility that several Kahanists may enter the next Knesset if the party manages to pass the 3.5% electoral percentage: the Anti-Defamation League, the New Israel Fund, the Union of Reform Judaism, Truah (organization of liberal/left-wing rabbis in the US), and the Democratic Majority for Israel (a" new lobbying group associated with the Democratic Party which describes itself as pro-Israel and in favor of progressive values").

I haven't seen any statement from the Conservative Movement (United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism or the Rabbinical Assembly), which disappoints me. I hope they also join in with these denunciations. I belong to a Conservative synagogue.

The American Jewish Committee also denounced the merger, without mentioning Netanyahu's role in bringing the parties together:
American Jewish Committee (AJC) does not normally comment on political parties and candidates during an election. But with the announcement that Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”), a new political party formed by longtime followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is now seeking election to the Knesset, we feel compelled to speak out. 
The views of Otzma Yehudit are reprehensible. They do not reflect the core values that are the very foundation of the State of Israel. The party might conceivably gain enough votes to enter the next Knesset, and potentially even become part of the governing coalition. 
Historically, the views of extremist parties, reflecting the extreme left or the extreme right, have been firmly rejected by mainstream parties, even if the electoral process of Israel’s robust democracy has enabled their presence, however small, in the Knesset. 
Ultimately, it is up to Israel’s Central Elections Commission to determine, as it has done in the past, whether Otzma Yehudit can be listed on the ballot on Election Day. 
Looking ahead to April 9, AJC reaffirms our commitment to Israel’s democratic and Jewish character, which we hope will be the ultimate winners in every election cycle.
Today AIPAC also denounced Otzma Yehudit in a tweet: "We agree with AJC. AIPAC has a longstanding policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party." 

The left-wing American Zionist group Ameinu issued a statement "slamming inclusion of Kahanists in Israeli Political Merger."
Ameinu views with grave concern the recently announced merger arranged by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between two extremist right wing parties, HaBayit HaYehudi and Otzmah Yehudit. As part of the agreement, the Prime Minister promised that this new block will receive the housing and education ministries should Netanyahu be asked to form the next Israeli government, following elections on April 9. “It is unfathomable that disciples of Meir Kahane, an unrepentant racist whose party, Kach, was barred from running in Israel’s elections in 1988, should be legitimized and encouraged to serve in any government of Israel. Shame on Prime Minister Netanyahu,” said Ameinu President Kenneth Bob.
Ameinu is outraged by this development; it is a stain on Israel’s democracy and an affront to Zionism. There are certain ideas, policies and groups that are beyond the pale; Otzma Yehudit, a far-right, ultra-nationalist, racist party, has no place in the Knesset, much less in a potential government coalition. The mainstreaming of hate groups like Otzma Yehudit can only harm Israel’s standing in the international community and further damage the already delicate relations between Israeli and American Jews.
Eight American leftist Jewish groups also issued a statement titled "Kahanists Have No Place In The Knesset"  (New Israel Fund, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Partners for Progressive Israel, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, National Council of Jewish Women, Reconstructing Judaism, and Ameinu)
This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, keen to shore up his electoral position, orchestrated the unification of the extreme right-wing party Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) with the National Union so that it could enter the Knesset in a consolidated right-wing bloc. This is dangerous and deeply concerning. Otzma Yehudit is the latest iteration of a political party based on teachings of racist demagogue Meir Kahane.

For decades, the consensus in Israel was that these racist extremist organizations should have no place in the Knesset. We are outraged that right-wing political parties and their leadership have reversed course and opened the door for Kahanists to enter into the Israeli political mainstream. 
Our organizations do not advocate for or against any candidate or party in any election. We stand together for the principles enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Kahanism, empowered in government, represents a clear and present danger to those values. 
Kahane’s party, Kach, was banned from the Knesset in 1988, was outlawed as a terrorist organization in Israel in 1994, and 
still appears on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
Modern-day Kahanists are working to divide Israeli society by stoking racial fears. They seek to strip all non-Jewish Israelis of basic rights; many encourage violence toward Arabs and LGBTQ Israelis. These Jewish supremacist organizations often use incitement to violence to promote their racist agenda. That’s why the US State Department, the EU and the Canadian government all list Kahanist organizations as terrorist groups. 
Today’s Kahanists have been convicted numerous times for support for terror organizations and incitement to racism. Michael Ben-Ari, a leader of Otzma Yehudit and candidate for Knesset, was denied a visa to enter the US due to the State Department’s “prerogative to ban terrorists from entering the country.” 
As Americans, we have seen the devastating effects of elected officials embracing white nationalist groups. In America, deadly right-wing extremism poses a clear and present danger to our democratic society. In Israel, it is Kahanists — and the political mainstream that embraces them — that pose the most direct threat to Israel’s democratic fiber. 
We call on our colleagues in the American Jewish community and Jewish organizations to stand for democracy and equality and join us in affirming that Kahanists have no place in the Knesset.
x

Monday, February 18, 2019

More Google Earth images of the Saudi Arabian desert

Thabhloten is apparently a military airport, but I find the stony hills near it quite amazing.


An area of dunes, I think. 


Desert in Saudi Arabia.

Google Earth - scenes from the Saudia Arabian desert. Little compounds with trees (I think), a couple of tiny towns, and dunes in a nature reserve.  I love Google Earth.






Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Poem for Holocaust Remembrance Day - "Dead Men Don't Praise God," by Jacob Glatstein


Dead Men Don’t Praise God (1946).

Jacob Glatstein

We received the Torah on Sinai
and in Majdanek we gave it back.
Dead men don’t praise God,
and the Torah was given to the living
And just as we all stood together
at the giving of the Torah,
so did we all die together at Majdanek.

I’ll translate the tousled head, the pure eyes,
the tremulous mouth of a Jewish child
into this frightful fairy tale.
I’ll fill the sky with stars
and I’ll tell him:
our people is a fiery sun
from beginning to beginning to beginning.
Learn this, my little one,
from beginning to beginning to beginning.
Our whole imagined people
stood at Mount Sinai
and received the Torah.
The dead, the living, the unborn,
every soul among us answered:
we will obey and hear
You, the saddest boy of all generations,
you also stood on Mount Sinai.
Your nostrils caught the raisin-almond fragrance of each
word of the Torah.
It was Shavuoth, the green holiday.
You sang with them like a songbird:
I will hear and obey, obey and hear
from beginning to beginning to beginning.

Little one, your life is carved
in the constellations of our sky,
you were never absent,
you could never be missing.
When we were, you were.
And when we vanished,
you vanished with us.

And just as we all stood together
at the giving of the Torah,
so did we all die together at Majdanek.
From all sides the souls came flocking.
The souls of those who had lived out their lives, of those
who had died young,
of those who were tortured, tested in every fire,
of those who were not yet born,
and of all the dead Jews from great grandfather Abraham down
they all came to Majdanek for the great slaughter.
All those who stood at Mount Sinai
and received the Torah
took these holy deaths upon themselves.
“We want to perish with our whole people,
we want to be dead again,”
the ancient souls cried out.
Mama Sarah, Mother Rachel,
Miriam and Deborah the prophetess
went down singing prayers and songs,
and even Moses, who so much did not want to die
when his time came,
now died again.
And his brother, Aaron,
and King David,
and the Rambam, the Vilna Gaon,
and Mahram and Marshal.
And with every holy soul
that perished in torture
hundreds of souls
of Jews long dead, died with them.

And you, beloved boy, you too were there.
You carved against the constellated sky,
you were there, and you died there.
Sweet as a dove you stretched out your neck
and sang together with the fathers and mothers.
From beginning to beginning to beginning.

Shut your eyes, Jewish child,
and remember how the Baal Shem rocked you in his arms
when your whole imagined people
vanished in the gas chambers of Majdanek.

And above the gas chambers
and the holy dead souls,
a forsaken abandoned Mount Sinai veiled itself in smoke.
Little boy with the tousled head, pure eyes, tremulous mouth,
that was you, then—the quiet, tiny, forlorn
given-back Torah.
You stood on top of Mount Sinai and cried,
You cried your cry to a dead world.
From beginning to beginning to beginning.

And this was your cry:
we received the Torah on Sinai
and in Majdanek, we gave it back.
Dead men don’t praise God.
The Torah was given to the living.