Saturday, 21 January 2017


Healing is a process we each have experienced or will experience at some stage in our lives. It happens mostly on the personal facet, rarely on a national or universal ones. We all know how much it is needed in those two last realms. What is a better time than the Present?

Many of you probably guess where this message is leading to and hopefully will share its urgency with me.

Yesterday, a new President, Donald Trump, was sworn in. It is no secret that many do not like him and his proposed policies. I do. However, like many, I await to see the results. Deep inside I harbor hope and faith.

Hope and Faith, I have learned through some hard lessons in life are two of the the main ingredients of the Healing process. It is the faith in the goodness of people, in the hope for a better and rewarding future that has kept me going and striving. Faith and Hope are also what has kept our Jewish people alive through our ensanguined history. We came out of it stronger and better.
I wish Americans and their allies would adopt that lesson and use the process to make our country greater than ever. I am certain we all care about America and we all have America’s best interest at heart, each in their own way.

Yesterday, America, through its newly legally and constitutionally elected and inaugurated President, started the implementation of one of the ways many believe will help us reach that wonderful and noble goal. That path will guide America for, at least, the next four years. Not all have to agree with that path but we should all respect it and give it a chance.

I trust we all agree that this path is not easy. It must overcome many hurdles. We need to ask ourselves the following questions, are we going to put more hurdles? Are we going to plant more traps and land mines, one that may have our names on them? Are we going to do all we can to try and sabotage it? Are we going to let our own personal selfish pride dictate our moves and actions?

Alternatively, we can ask, do we care about our country? Do we want to see it thrive? Do we want to keep the great American legacy? Do we not owe it to our children to rear them in a safe and supportive environment?

There are never any guarantees in life. That, too, we all know and agree with. We are facing the unknown yet again. This is where Faith and Hope, two tools that we were given at birth, tools that are intended to help us at difficult moments on Life’s journey, play an important role.

We also need Courage. And if there is one least used gift we all have the potential to possess, it is Courage. Embarking the Healing process takes Courage. It requires a change of attitude. It demands that we all let go of old habits and learn to be more tolerant and accepting. Courage and Integrity is what it takes to board this so badly needed voyage of Healing of our torn, sadly divided and fractured great nation.

Time to stop the bickering, learn to dignify the difference and rise above our own personal agenda. There are forces outside of us that await our destruction. Are we going to let them succeed? Are we going to let the enemies outside hurt us? Are we going to allow differences leave us vulnerable as a nation? This is the time to unite and stand as one behind our elected leader. It is the only way we will ever be able to remain strong.

I will conclude with the wise words of a former U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt who wrote. They were true then and they are true today
"The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity - or it will move apart. "

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Russia and Yisrael

Last night I attended a concert of the Red Army Choir. It brought fond memories of an early childhood in Yisrael, memories of a home where the Russian culture was an integral part.
My parents who moved to Yisrael in 1949 were born in Belarus and Lithuania. Russian was one of the languages spoken at my home. We listened to Russian songs and we sang them. I will never forget how at the age of seven, my mother, who was a brilliant singer, taught me “Under Moscow’s Nights” (which I can sing in Russian until this day). I used to sing it on family celebrations such as weddings and Bar-Mitsvahs when I had to reach up to the microphone which was always much taller than me. We also sang Russian songs, in their Hebrew translation, during my youth movement days. Those were happy songs. Those were happy times for me.

Unfortunately, however, Russia does not evoke only doting memories in me.

It was the Russian Gulag where my late grandfather, Ben-Tsion, (after whom I am named) was deported to and where he eventually perished for no crime other than being a wealthy Zionist Jew. His legacy drove me to visit Siberia in my desire to trace his last footsteps. That was a hard experience. There was no comparison between the conditions under which I visited the place and the ones he experienced. I learned about those settings through avidly reading books written by Solzhenitsyn and others, hoping to learn as much as I could about the last phases of his life. I could not even begin to fathom what he had to face in that horrible place.

It was not, though, the only visit I made to Russia. Something drew me to that place, some unexplained call from the unknown and painful parts of my Jewish being - a call to go visit that part of the world. As hard as it might be to admit, I loved every minute I spent there.
I know, some would be quick to point out all the ugly aspects of Russia, its regime, its bloody history of anti-semitism and violation of basic human rights. Despite these, I could not help but be fascinated by its wealth of culture and great contributions, Jewish and other, to world civilization.

Listening to the Red Army Choir with its perfect performance, vocal and visual, triggered a resurgence of my admiration for that culture. I was so proud when I heard the choir chant Hebrew and Yiddish songs, songs of my happy childhood in Eretz Yisrael, songs of a culture that shaped me into who I am. I was dancing in my seat to the sounds of a wonderful amalgamation of my past, present and future.

As the lump was growing in my throat and my eyes were welling up, I could not help but express a silent wish that the coming days will see a growing cultural exchange between our two countries. I was praying for the building of bridges that would melt the political barriers and divisions and help improve the lots of both the Russian and Jewish People.

I hope you will all join me in this vision and in unison say “Amen!”

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Reign of Dishonesty

Written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

The Ten Commandments are universally taken as a good list of rules for a fair and moral society.  We all seem to agree that “Thou shall not steal” is a good policy.  We all concur that not murdering is a necessary basic rule of any moral and stable society, that coveting leads to all sorts of problems and so on.

But less specifically stated is that all these rules hinge on honesty and are undermined by dishonesty.  We all hear that “honesty is the best policy” and that dishonesty leads to problems we do not want.  We all want our children to tell us the truth, businesses to treat us honestly and fairly, and friends and neighbours to never cheat us.

Everyone has been guilty of holding back on the truth so as not to hurt the feelings of a relative or friend, one’s wife or husband.  Half-truths to protect feelings are not uncommon.  Lies to protect against evil are justified at times.   The simple fact is whether one is honest or dishonest affects more than that person.  It affects others who depend on that person.
One fact, however, remains clear. Whether someone is honest or dishonest directly or indirectly touches the lives and choices of others.  
Another fact that remains uncontested is that, there are circumstances when honesty needs to be expected from those who affect our daily lives. Their honesty is something that we depend on for our decision-making processes and our choices.  Their honesty, or lack of it, determines what we must do, or not do.  

Honesty has rarely, if ever, been the governing principle on the timeline of history. For one to be honest, one needs to be courageous, be free of agenda and have a strong desire to bring about a change for the better in one’s world. In a way being honest is, to use Gandhi’s words, being the change that one wants to see in the world.
The honesty-dishonesty conundrum begins with childhood.  Children lie to protect themselves when they believe that they have done something wrong or disappointed someone close to them.  We teach them to develop trust and that being honest is best in the long run. 

Later in life, many use dishonesty in order to take advantage of others.  Businessmen who cut corners in order to sell faulty merchandise or who charge high prices in times of tragedy to profit from the hurt of others, come to mind. Politicians are another example of those who sometimes use lies, distraction, or evasion of truth as their compass to attract supporters and voters to gain power or push a policy that they believe might have opposition if people knew the facts.

Dishonesty, unfortunately, has become the rule rather than the exception in today’s world, today, more than ever before.  

Everyday people, sadly enough, also, play the same game in the hope of bringing about a change that will improve their status and advance their own personal agenda, gain friendships and buy love.
What is even more concerning is that we have learned to accept dishonesty and live with it. We may get momentarily upset when witnessing it, mumble our discontent with those that employ it, shake our head in disbelief yet we move on with our daily chores. We have all seen people who would excuse dishonest behavior and wonder why.   Some do wonder about the guy that shrugs off dishonesty by saying “everyone steals” or the politician who wants us to believe him but says “everyone lies”.   And what is worse is when people excuse dishonesty to protect their favorite friend or store or politician or political party,  strangely even when it might be against their own best interests.

Honesty, on the other hand and strangely enough has become a dirty word and is almost akin to a four-letter word.  In some countries today, the honest man is considered “naïve” or a fool.  The guy who shakes hands on a deal without paying a lawyer is called a “sucker”, assuming everyone is going to cheat him.  The honest man is scorned by many.

Likewise, in this Politically Correct world where opinions that do not conform  are censored, those that strive to express their opinions genuinely and sincerely amount to no more than “cyber bullies” and accused of promoting strife, hatred, lack of PC and warding off friendships merely for dissenting from current popular clichés. They are even considered by some, “the enemy.” What follows then is that the “enemy”, the “cyber bully” should be attacked, sanctioned and occasionally even threatened,  no different than the intolerance that led to pogroms against Jews in Europe.

The legitimization of dishonesty is alive and well and continues to pose danger to liberty.