Monthly Archives: December 2014

Chanukah Musings

Shalom Y’All:

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight we light the first Chanukah candle. As we do so, we should keep in mind that while Chanukah is a joyous holiday, its true meaning should not be obscured by the latkes and the gifts. Chanukah is all about religious freedom, the freedom to serve G-d as we wish. Back then it was the Greeks who tried to make Jews into Hellenists and killed those who refused. But this modus operandi is not limited to the Greeks. It was practiced by both Christians and Muslims during the many many years of Jewish persecution.

Today ISIS and the Taliban are killing those who do not practice the same brand of Islam as they do. A tragic recent story described the beheading of four Christian youngsters in Iraq who refused to convert to Islam. Religious bigotry, unfortunately, is alive and well. The freedom to practice any religion freely is not a given in many countries. Jews, in particular, are unwelcome in many parts of the world. They no longer exist in most Arab countries and have been attacked in a number of European cities. The difference is that fortunately, today, unlike in the past, persecuted Jews have a place to go, a place where they are free to practice and believe as they wish. That place of course is Israel. Israel by the way is also a safe haven for many other groups that that been persecuted because of their religion, such as the Bahai, and Ahmadi.

So as you light the candles, think about how fortunate we are that our kids no longer have to play dreidel to hide their Jewish education, that you can practice your religion freely and that if worse comes to worse, you have a place to go where you will be safe.

Enough of the seriousness. Let’s lighten things up a bit. Here are links to eight Chanukah videos that you may enjoy.

Chanukah Music Videos: Debby Friedman Sandler KeyTov Orchestra

Some of these are classics. Some have newer versions, such as the Maccabeats, whose newest video can be found here.

Happy Chanukah from JewTee! May your Chanukah be joyous and full of laughter and good cheer.

Categories: Judaism, religion, religious freedom | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Jonathan Pollard’s Parole Request Denied

Shalom Y’All:

Today Jonathan Pollard begins his 30th year in prison for a crime for which others typically serve only two to four years.  He was hospitalized three days ago and is in poor health.

His parole request, the first since his incarceration, was summarily denied in August of this year on the grounds that the breath and scope of the material he gave to the Israelis was the greatest comprise of US security to date. This allegation is totally false and was based primarily on the document prepared by Casper Weinberger, a former secretary of defense, nearly 22 years ago, which has since been proven to contain many falsehoods. Years later Weinberger himself backtracked and said that the Pollard case was a relatively”minor matter.”

Despite the fact that Pollard is a model prisoner, is no longer a security risk, and scored highly on factors indicating suitability for release,  those present at the parole hearing characterized it as a “kangaroo court” and a “lynching.”

Although the parole board said it would conduct another review of the case in February 2015 and another parole hearing five months later, it made clear that the US government would again vigorously oppose Pollard’s parole request.

The letter informing Pollard of the rejection of his parole request was harsh and said in part, “You passed thousands of Top Secret documents to Israeli agents, threatening US relations in the Middle East among the Arab countries.” The letter concluded by stating, “Given all this information, paroling you at this time would depreciate the seriousness of the offense and promote disrespect for the law.”

In response, eight former high level US officials wrote a strongly worded letter to President Obama denouncing the Parole Board’s decision and charging the administration with basing its “unjust denial” on a “patently false” document -the Weinberger Memorandum. The signatories include former CIA director, Amb. R. James Woolsey; Lawrence Kolb, former assistant US Secretary of Defense; and former National Security Advisor Robert MacFarlane.

The letter writers pointed out that the parole board ignored all evidence in Pollard’s favor, including his high score on a test measuring “suitability for release,” his age, his family situation, poor health, and his wife’s cancer. They denounced the “grossly disproportionate” treatment of Pollard, and said his “unconditional release is long overdue.” They criticized the “unjust parole process” and called it “deeply flawed.” Furthermore they said that the Commission had falsely characterized Pollard’s spying as “the greatest compromise of US security to that date,” a charge which they said was wholly unsupported, and the document on which it was based was known to be unreliable.

The writers are familiar with the Pollard file and its classified documents and know of what they write.

So why is Pollard still in jail? There are certainly no security reasons for his continued incarceration. One explanation currently in vogue is that the US government wishes to use him as a bargaining chip to get concessions from Israel. That this has validity is shown by the fact that the US was willing to free Pollard if, during the latest attempt at peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel completed the last round of Palestinian prisoners releases. The talks broke down before this became a reality.

Now that the parole option is useless, Pollard’s attorneys and supporters are going back to the only available option: a pardon by the US president. To achieve this, US Jews will once again be urged to send letters to Congress and the President.  Pollard’s lawyers hope the renewed pressure not only from US Jews, but also from civil liberty movements will be successful.

All people of good conscience should actively participate in trying to get President Obama to pardon Pollard. This shows the President that many people favor Pollard’s release and may persuade the President to act.

Hopefully, the Administration will come to its senses and put an end to this mockery of justice. If not, Pollard’s freedom will be in the hands of the next President. I just hope Pollard lives long enough to enjoy it.

Categories: Jonathan Pollard | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

On Chanukah Gifts and Hunger

Shalom Y’All:

We light the first Chanukah candle on December 16, two weeks away. To help last minute shoppers, I’d like to suggest a few Chanukah gifts from

The Sweatshirt of Champions

The sweatshirt for winners.

A funny Hanukkah shirt for kids

A funny Chanukah shirt for the younger set.

Latke Chefs Apron

These Latke men are hot.

Woe to the World.

The World Is Really Messed Up!

Happy Hanukkah baby.

Celebrate the Hanukkah Holiday and the baby.

Check out these and many other Chanukah and Jewish designs on shirts, t shirts, sweatshirts, jerseys, hats, pajamas, mugs and novelty gifts at

Did you know that the distribution of Chanukah gelt is also part of the Hanukkah Holiday? Chanukah gelt these days is packaged as pieces of chocolate in gold foil in the shape of coins. It is usually given to kids. However, gelt means money and in the 17th century money was given to the teachers of Jewish students on Chanukah. (For a further discussion of Chanukah gelt see my previous Chanukah Q&A post.)

Many parents still give their kids actual money on Chanukah, but the kids are encouraged to give this money to charity.

Speaking of charity,  I recently learned that one in five New Yorkers does not have enough to eat. One in four children are hungry. A 2011 study of New York’s Jewish poor revealed that one in four New York Jews do not have enough to eat. That’s heartbreaking!

In a country as rich as ours, in a city with so many millionaires, in a city with so many Jewish institutions, for so many people to be hungry is outrageous.

Here are some additional facts:

As of 2011,more than 333,000 people in Jewish households in New York City were poor—a 50 percent increase since 2002, and a 100 percent increase since 1991.  One in ten Jewish households were near poor- not earning enough money to meet their needs, but above the poverty guidelines.  Jewish poor and near-poor include Russian-born immigrants, seniors on fixed incomes, members of the Orthodox community , and the unemployed/underemployed.

Soup kitchens, including Kosher soup kitchens, exist to feed the hungry, but they generally serve only one meal per day. That leaves lots of room for hunger.

So this Chanukah enjoy the festivities, but remember the Jewish poor and all those who are hungry. Give generously to the reputable charity of your choice, but be wary of telemarketing calls, even those that  seem to be from a reputable charity. You don’t know who’s on the other end of the line and these days giving out your credit card number to a phone caller might result in the hijacking of your credit card and even identity theft.  So be generous, but careful.

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Israel UN Ambassador Prosor’s Speech to the United Nations


I recently came across an excellent speech by Ron Prosor, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations given to the General Assembly on November 24, 2014. I urge you to read it in its entirety. Here’s the Link:

I really have nothing to add.

Categories: Anti Semitism, Israel, United Nations | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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