Wednesday, 26 April 2017

To You, Germany, Deutschland from me

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

Throughout the early years of my life in Yisrael, I heard people referring to you in various ways. They were diverse depending on the contexts, setting and who made a mention of it.

In my household, for instance, it was always negative and understandably so. Both my parents, my close family members and most of our friends were Shoah survivors. The mere citation of your name evoked memories of pain and suffering. It brought to the surface nightmares and recollections of an era which were frenziedly pushed to the dark corners of my family’s sub consciousness in an effort to erase any trace of their existence. Your forbidden name was engraved on their brain, the physical scars brandished on their skin and both are still imprinted on my soul.

“Never Forget, Never Again” is the motto that our people has adopted when we recall that chapter in our history where you, Germany, Deutschland have played such a critical role. That role, I must admit has changed us immensely. You have helped us raise and shape a race of Jews who are determined to make that motto a reality every single day of our lives.

In my home, though, and again, plausibly so, that motto was followed by “Never Forgive.” Surely you cannot blame blemished souls, emotionally and physically disfigured (my father was 70% disabled), for vowing that. We never bought products made by you. We never drove cars produced by you. Neither did we ever listen to the beautiful music composed by Strauss and Wagner. My brother and I were raised to believe that you were the embodiment of all evil.

I refused to accept that perception and was determined to change it. I was resolute to “Never Forget,” but I was also ready to forgive. For how, I asked myself, can anyone blame the children for the sins of their fathers? The optimist in me wanted to believe that the seed of goodness was after all in you and continued to hold the conviction that its fruition was provisionally hindered because it was tended by the wrong gardener. I wanted to believe that you and your people have learned the lessons of World War II and would make every effort to educate your youth the meaning of compassion, justice, civility and respect.

Needless to add that my embarking on such a journey towards such a noble goal was not very welcome by those who raised me otherwise.

Reality, however, soon dealt me a hard blow .The new, repenting Germany might have been the case for some. Not for all, though, so it seemed.

I recently learnt that "According to reports submitted by Israeli NGOs, in 2012-2015 alone, €4 million of German taxpayer money was allocated to 15 Israeli NGOs (this may be a partial amount, as not all Israel NGOs adhere to the submission requirements), 42% of which went to organizations that promote BDS and/or “one-state” visions. " (

Such a reality makes me wonder, why do you, Germany, of all nations, engage in such activities, aimed at out rightly undermining the Jewish state, the Homeland of the same people that almost a century ago, you were so determined to annihilate?

The answer, I believe, can be summed up in one word, Projection. The term is used in the realm of psychology where it describes the actions of humans who defend themselves and their bad deeds by denying their existence in themselves and attributing them to others.

Naturally, you, Germany and some of your proud Germans, are aware of your dark history and your atrocious actions against the Jews. Such a history rests as a yoke on your neck refusing to disappear. The human conscience can bear only so much guilt especially when it is repeatedly flung at it. Your guilt-ridden essence needs to relieve itself of it.

Supporting and financing groups that promote BDS, which clearly present Yisrael and Jews as malevolent, is one way of dealing with all that guilt. It helps dwarf the crimes you committed against the Jewish Nation. Creating and aiding a narrative which portrays your victims as evil and themselves guilty of “war crimes,” helps diminish the magnitude of your own crimes and shift focus from them to those of their victims, those they have wronged so badly.

Such actions by you, Deutschland will eventually act as a boomerang. They may provide you with the so long sought after relief but it is merely a temporary one. Your current behaviour not only reopens and deepens our scars, it makes ‘Never Forget” and “Never Forgive” for people, like yours truly, more unyielding than ever before.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Not Just One Day......

Yom HaShoah, for me, a daughter of two Shoah survivors, is always.

Growing up in the shadow of this horrific chapter in our history, reliving the memories of its atrocities and never forgetting it are a part of who I am and what I am.

I am the young child in the Ghetto who is pushed to become a thief and steal a potato so that he can feed his starving younger sister.

I am the mother who is desperately trying to calm and silence her baby for fear of having their hiding place disclosed.

I am the teacher in the Ghetto who does all she can to educate the young children and make them understand that which no human mind can grasp, that which is inconceivable.

I am the Rabbi who tirelessly tries to explain to his desperate listeners that G-d is not ignoring them but merely temporarily hiding His face.

I am the partisan who lives in the forest, defiantly resisting and determined to overcome death.

I am the Kapo who was forced to make a difficult choice of either electing death or becoming a false god who would decree who by fire and who by water.

I am the doomed who was selected to be the one who removes the corpses from the gas chambers as I study the familiar faces painted with agony. I see their blank look and frozen eyes staring at me, begging me to live and tell and to Never Forget.

I am the daughter of an elderly sick mother who is desperately trying to ignite the spark of Hope in her dying soul.

I am the young woman who was part of the string quartet that was standing at the entrance to the crematoria, playing the scratched violin as we were dancing our brothers and sisters to the “End of Love.” *

I am a Jewish Yisraeli soldier who visited the Nazi death camps and promised all the innocent victims that their spilled blood will forever light my Life’s path and the path of our future Jewish generations.

I am all of them and many nameless more. I am them, not only one day a year, not only every single day of the year but every single day of my life as well.

* ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ … came from just hearing or reading or knowing that in the death camps, beside the crematoria, in certain of the death camps, a string quartet was pressed into performance while this horror was going on, those were the people whose fate was this horror also. And they would be playing classical music while their fellow prisoners were being killed and burnt.” -  Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Yisrael, the Jewish Homeland, or a Home for the Jews?

This article was co-authored by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

For many of us it is not even a question. There is only fact. There always has been. As far as we are concerned, there will always be. Yisrael is the Jewish Homeland, the only Jewish Homeland.
Unfortunately, there are still many, Jews included, who refuse to see it. All around us, we witness NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) popping up promoting and supporting the creation of a “Civil Society” in Yisrael, instead of the Jewish one. We hear slogans calling for making Yisrael the “state of all of its citizens.” Some are even going as far as suggesting that “Hatikvah,” the Yisraeli National anthem be changed to reflect the reality that they purport.
Of course there are more pressing issues that need addressing, as some try to enlighten us. There always were, there always will be. However, as time goes by and more groups that call for such changes show up, the more urgency this issue gains.
In order to illustrate our stance, please allow us to take you through memory lane and remind you, the readers, of some vital historical facts.
Let us start with the Torah and the whole Tanach. We know that some would regard it a religious document that may not serve as a historical one. Unfortunately, for those who entertain such claims, history and archeology support our contention. Eretz Yisrael is the Homeland of the Jews. The Torah, the whole Tanach serve as our Deed.
True, Am Yisrael conquered it from the nations that were present here. Unfortunately, however, there is none of them left around to claim it as their own just as there are no Morori left in New Zealand to claim it back from the Maori who conquered them and now claim it back from the White man.
The Jewish essence of Eretz Yisrael was decreed thousands of years ago. Again, it is supported by historical and archeological evidence.
It was decreed by G-d to Avraham first and foremost. For those of you who feel that G-d has no room in this debate, fear not, there is abundant historical and archeological proof that the Jewish People walked this Land long before many of those who wish to strip it of its Jewish core. There is the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is plenty of written material as well as exhibits displayed in museums in Yisrael and other places around the world that point at that.
On top of it, and not that it matters much to the point of this article, it was the Gentiles who determined the strong and inseparable connection of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael.
First, there is the Cyrus Declaration. “In 539 B.C.E, having conquered Babylon, the benevolent Cyrus freed the Jews from captivity and empowered them to return to the Promised Land and build their Temple.” (
Fast forwarding in History, we have the Balfour Declaration that specifically spells out the nature of the political entity that would be established in Eretz Yisrael. In a letter that Lord Balfour write to Lord Rothschild, on November 2nd, 1917 , he states, “Foreign Office November 2nd, 1917
“….on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet
His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, …….
There it is in plain view, “A National Home for the Jewish People.”
That Declaration was also the basis for the San Remo Accord of 1920. In Article 22, the Supreme Council recognized the:

historical connection of the Jewish people to Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country” 

Eventually it became International law in the form of the League of Nations’ establishment of the Mandate for Palestine, in which Britain was to administer parts of what was the Ottoman Empire to establish and develop a Homeland for the Jewish People.

To understand what happened we have to look at the world in that era of the mid to late 19th century and into the early 20th.  It was recognized by all that it was necessary for ethnic minorities to have self-determination expressed through their own nation states and that no people needed this more than the Jewish people who were persecuted as outsiders everywhere.  

That belief in ethnic self-determination has continued to this day, though selectively.   Yugoslavia has split into 6 nation states whose differences are more based on religion and tradition than anything else.   The Soviet Union has been divided into many states based on language, religion, and ethnic identity.  In more recent history, Serbia was bombed viciously by NATO forces to create a separate Muslim and Albanian speaking Kosovo that caused an exodus of Serbian Christians fleeing discrimination. 

Each of these nation states, have a predominant religion and culture and often sizable minorities that do not share all of that culture with the majority. The world accepts that as normal and legitimate with ONE exception, the Jewish state.

Now, ask yourselves, why is this Jewish State the sole exception to the pattern?   Why is it that the only ethnic nation state in the world that has a 3400-year connection to its land, world recognition of its rightful existence written into International law, and after the need to fight several times to prevent genocide of its people, is asked to reject its identity and traditions and beliefs in order to be a “nation of all its citizens?”  

Should Italy ban celebrations of traditional Christian holidays,  many of them legal holidays,  to become a state of all its citizens.  Same with France.  Same with Germany.  Should France ban traditional pork from school lunches to be a nation of all its citizens?   Should Germany ban Oktoberfest because it is too ethnically German and might make Muslims feel excluded?   No one asks them to do that.

There are only 2 possible answers.   (1)  Anti-Semitism on the part of gentiles making such demands who want to see the end of the Jewish state and of the Jewish people and (2)  a Ghetto mentality on the part of some Jews who are so desperate for the safety promised by disappearing into some universal mass.

We need to stop with apologetic Hasbarah, cease with the need, by Jews and non-Jews alike, to constantly define and redefine who and what we are. Just like any other nation, we need to put our foot down and present the world with the incontestable fact. Yisrael is the Jewish Homeland just as it always has been and forever will be!

Special thanks go to Moshe Schwartz

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

That which is Our Own

This article was co-authored by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks.

“Of course it is ok for non-Jews to adopt and use Jewish symbols and practices,” we hear many Jews say. “Isn’t it great that others find our Torah and its commandments so desirable that they decide to embrace them?” Others ask.

The Torah was given to Am Yisrael and the Jewish People, not to the world.  The Torah instructs Jews to wear a tallit, to use tefillin, to remember and to observe Shabbat. We are instructed to do that because as the Torah says G-d took us, Am Yisrael, not everyone else, out of slavery in Egypt with a “strong hand and an outstretched arm.” Jews alone were given the laws of Kashrut and the Mitzvah to celebrate Jewish holidays in a particularly Jewish way.  These experiences and customs are uniquely Jewish ones. They are related to and are an integral part of our unique Jewish history, the history of Am Yisrael.

Unlike what many Jews are taught nowadays, Judaism is not universal. Though many of the values, morals, lessons, of Torah and of Jewish history, are ones that all peoples can learn and benefit from, Torah, as we mentioned above, was given to the Jewish People. It is the story of the Jewish People, not of the whole world.  Even though various Gentile peoples have adopted what is Jewish, that does not make  G-d’s gift to the Jewish Nation, the Covenant with Am Yisrael, universal. 

After 2000 years of being subject to persecution, exclusion, hate, and all too often confiscations and violence by Christians, for the first time in history, some Gentiles, considering the roots of their own faith, have found an interest in Judaism and Jewish practices. Some because of sheer interest. Many more do it because it is a way, they believe, to understand and be closer to their religious roots.

So today we see some Christian ministers adopting the use of the Talit.  Others try the Kipah.  Some churches for the last several years have held Passover meals with matzah and traditional Jewish readings at their churches. 

We have no problem with Christians having an interest in learning and understanding the Jewish roots of their religion, to the degree that they exist.  It needs to be remembered, however, that Christians do it not to be Jewish or more like Jews, and not to be part of what is Jewish.  For example, when Christian Churches sponsor a Seder for Passover, they do it because Jesus did it and they interpret it through their own religious theology as being Jesus centered.  They do it not because they love the Jewish People or because they want to be like Jews.  They perform these rites for Christian reasons, to identify closer with their theological roots. 

We have no right to tell Christians what to do or what to believe within their theology. 

What we do have a problem with, though, is when Jews see Christians perform customs associated with Judaism and feel “Oh so flattered” and “Oh so happy” about it that they fail to see (or is it refuse to see) the rationale, the motives, behind it.  We do have a problem when Jews blur the differences between Jewish beliefs and Christian beliefs based on the Christian adoption of some Jewish forms and customs and when some Jews claim that we are all the same.
Because we are not. We are not better. We are not worse. We are just different.

To those Jews who are willingly and readily handing out slices of our Jewish heritage indiscriminately, we have this to answer. Will those same Jews allow strangers into their home, let them take, for example, a precious heirloom that has been running in their family for generations and let them walk out with it and declare it as their own? That, in our book, is usurpation! The difference is that when one takes a private possession it is between them and the owner. When one appropriates Jewish practices or symbols, it is between those who take it and Am Yisrael. That includes Jews like us who are unhappy about it. We cringe when we see reverends and pastors wearing talitot, Jewish prayer shawls, in their church services praying to Jesus when we all know that he is not part of Jewish tradition. We are unhappy when we witness a Pesach Seder conducted in a hybrid manner which celebrates the “Last Supper” more than the Exodus from Egypt

As much as we object to it and as much and we disagree with this reality, we cannot and should not try to stop others from taking on Jewish customs and practices while continuing to practice their own non-Jewish faith provided it stops there.

Unfortunately, it does not.

What we see unfolding in front of our eyes is a trend that we consider threatening to the future of our Jewish people. Many of those friends and supporters who adopt our customs and practices feel, much to our dismay, that with their interpretations of their “universal” nature, that they are compelled by their beliefs to spread their “gospel” to the Jews who, they believe, don’t seem to understand their own history or purpose. They then tell us what we should believe. They feel an obligation to educate us about our heritage and our tradition as seen through the lens of their own religious interpretations, in some attempt to define us, all with grave consequences to our future as a People.

Many of those who engage in such activities are charismatic leaders who whilst advocate for us, end up convincing Jewish youth, too often unprepared with a solid Jewish education, nor with any knowledge of the differences between Christianity and Judaism, of their interpretation of Judaism. They teach it through their own ethnic, religious and cultural eyes changing the meaning of the original Jewish values. We end up with Pied Pipers who allegedly came to our rescue but end up influencing a Jewish generation with a very misconstrued idea of what Judaism, Torah, Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael are all about.

The solution is not isolation, nor is it telling Christians what to believe.   Nor is it in suppressing freedom of expression.

The solution is in education of that which is our own. We need Jewish education that is more sophisticated than patterns that seemed sufficient in the 19th century. We also need to coach and educate young Jews of how the Christian and Muslim see the world in order to ensure proper Jewish continuity. 

May we continue to have a blessed Pesach

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Some of us are not only Jews, we are also Jewish

This article was written jointly by Roger Froikin and Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks

As far as we are concerned, there is a difference between the two. They are not always one and the same.
A Jew, according to the Oxford definition is “A member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham.”
We are not going to enter a debate here on who is a Jew. This definition merely addresses what a Jew is.
That same source defines Jewish as :” Of or relating to the Jews or their culture or religion.”
What begs to be concluded from these two definitions is that in order to be Jewish, one needs to be a Jew first. To be born a Jew or to become a Jew, one is automatically admitted into the Covenant that G-d entered with Avraham.
The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional Covenant. G-d made promises to Avraham in Bresheet (Genesis) 15:18-21. That Covenant which requires nothing of Avraham deals mainly with the dimension of the Land that G-d promised to him and his descendants. The rite itself as described in Bresheet 12:1-3 reinforces the notion that it is an unconditional one as it is G-d alone who passes between the pieces of animals after causing Avraham to fall into a deep sleep. The sign of this Covenant is the Brit Mila, the ceremony of circumcision (Bresheet 17:9-14). All males in the Avrahmic line were to be circumcised so that they bear a lifelong mark of it upon their flesh. Any descendant of Avraham who is denied or refuses circumcision was naturally declared and destined to be outside of G-d’s Covenant. Entering the Avrahamic Covenant is one of the conditions of being a Jew.
There is another Covenant that every Jew enters either upon birth or when becoming one. It is one that has shaped Am Yisrael and our Jewish people into who we are today. It is the Mosaic one, the one we entered with G-d at Mount Sinai. Unlike the Avrahamic Covenant, this one is a conditional one.
A Law school professor might call it a “contract of adhesion” in which the terms are presented as non-negotiable and to be accepted by the people. G-d presented His law to Am Yisrael at Mount Sinai as described in Shemot (Exodus) 19:5. Their response was acceptance, saying, “נעשה ונשמע " We shall do and we shall hear!” (Shemot 19:8).
The Mosaic Covenant sets Am Yisrael and the Jewish People apart from other nations. It is in understanding the responsibilities and values that are inherent to the Covenant at Mount Sinai, being motivated by them, identifying with them and acting consistent with them, that turns the Jew into Jewish. It is important to note here, that though some of the values such as social justice and moral code dictated to Am Yisrael, at Mount Sinai are universal, Judaism itself is not universal. It belongs to Jews and Am Yisrael only.
Now, we would bet people reading this so far expect the next paragraph to include an endorsement that Jews become more religious. No, that is not the intent of this essay. Nor is the intent to define who is a Jew or what Judaism is beyond the statements above.
Instead, the idea is to alert Jews to a problem. There are those Jews who have excluded themselves from the Jewish People representing themselves as Jews, when often they are not under normative and historical Jewish definitions. These Jews represent their motivations as Jewish when they are not. These Jews claim their values as Jewish when they are not.
This not a new phenomenon. Only the titles have changed. Throughout history, when Jews have been a minority or under foreign rule, there have been those Jews who saw it in their best interest to join with the powers that be and the group they ruled. They did it, and too often, to prove their allegiance (sometimes required, sometimes not) to their new “friends” by opposing the interests of the Jewish People, by actively negating – or reinterpreting – their connection to the Jewish people.
For instance, in Iberia, between 1200 and 1500, some Jews converted to Christianity so as not to be persecuted. When the Inquisition came in 1492 (1496 in Portugal), many of these converts became the most anti-Semitic people in Christian Spain. Torquemada, the first grand inquisitor, is one example.
In the late 19th Century and early 20th, many Jews in Europe, in an effort avoid being subject to exclusion and persecution, converted to Catholicism, seeking safety and security in a change of ideology, dumping their Judaism for what appeared to them to be “universalism.” Other Jews joined political movements, socialism, communism, trading Judaism for these universalist movements, as if to hide and seek safety in a universal ideology.
Today, we see some Jews acting similarly, but with a bit of a change. It is no longer necessary to hide that one is a Jew. Thus, instead of denying that they are Jews and in order to fit in, they reinterpret what Judaism is and turn it into universal secularism. This way, they create the fiction which allows them remain Jewish under the claim that the ethics of Judaism are indistinguishable from the latest liberal universal definition of secularism. In short, they leave Judaism and Jewish concerns and interests behind to become the Jew who is a believer in whatever the latest fashionable approach to secularism is. Liberalism and all its clichés of the day has become their religion, though they falsely label it Jewish.
So how is this modern manifestation different from the former Jews who were anti-Semites in post 1492 Spain, for example ? Not at all. So, for instance, when we see a “Jewish Voice for Peace” sidind with those who call for the destruction of Yisrael and the murder of Jews, we need to understand what they are. When we see an organization like B’Zelem in Medinat Yisrael (Israel) make an effort to damage Yisrael’s security and give aid and comfort to those that wish it destroyed, because they worry about what Europe thinks, we’ve seen it before.
We have all seen these online debates in which some far left wing Jew that claims to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist is called a Kapo by those who oppose him. Not only is that kind of characterization unfair and inaccurate, but it is perhaps not strong enough. “Kapos” became Kapos, because they were trying to survive often when the alternative was death. Those who claim the title “Jew” today, but who ally themselves with anti-Semites, who support murderers of Jews, did not take that position for their own safety or that of their families, but for other reasons that are not nearly as noble. We believe that they are worse than Kapos by any measure.
Frankly, the Jewish nation does not need people who choose to endanger the Jewish people in favor of some left-wing universalist clichés. The Jewish People does not need those who want to solve their psychological and sociological problems by damaging the future for the rest of us. The last thing the Jewish People needs is the kind of Jew who laughs at Jewish heritage and dismisses it in some misguided effort to be liked by gentiles.
In the Passover Hagaddah, there is the allegory of the 4 sons. One of them asks, “what does all this mean to you” as if excluding himself from Judaism, its Heritage, history and its ethical and moral standards. It is those misguided Jews, we believe, that the Hagaddah addresses.
So what should the Jewish people do about these “Jews in Name Only” ?
The first step is to understand what we started this essay with --- that a Jew can choose to be Jewish or not. We, Jews, first and foremost, need to understand that merely being a descendant of the Avrahamic Covenant does not automatically make one a party to the one made at Sinai. Wishing our Jewish brothers and sisters a happy and blessed Pesach.