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#Scarjo’s Super Bowl, Haaretz’s SodaStream

Personally, I didn’t like #scarjo’s SodaStream ad during the Super Bowl. I thought that it didn’t come close to living up to the hype. I preferred Bob Dylan’s Chrysler/Detroit ad much more. Ok, I am from Detroit.

The SodaStream ad was boring and forgettable. Nonetheless, the #bds and #notbuyingit folks are decrying the objectification of women they claim the ad panders to. Compared to the history of ads exploiting women during the Super Bowl this hardly registered. In fact, I think that the only redeeming part of the ad is that it poked fun at the those who try to make something viral by objectifying women. Or at least that was my take on it, others may disagree.

Notwithstanding this, the #notbuyingit Israel boycotters are grabbing for anything now – sexism included – because more and more article are surfacing discounting their lies about @sodastreamusa.

Israel’s left-wing newspaper Haaretz has published a piece chronicling all the good about SodaStream. One might expect that the hate bubbling would die down. Hardly. #notbuyingit tweeters have gone on a full scale assault on #scarjo and @sodastreamusa. They continue to obfuscate the truth preferring incendiary accusations.

SodaStream, by the accounts of the recent Haaretz article, keep their Palestinian and Jewish workers happy. #scarjo knows this. Everyone knows this. And bad for the BDS’ers, the recent controversy they have caused w

ill help the company sell more units.

I just hope that #scarjo’s advisors realize that millions of more people love Israel, and support her, than are critical of her choice to rep @sodastreamusa. She can weather the storm of these ideological and pathological Israel haters, and focus instead on the vast majority of Americans that think Israel is a moral country under impossible circumstances.

Americans by a vast margin support Israel – and will therefore support their #scarjo.

Kelly Thomas: No Justice in Life or in Death

Two police officers whose brutal attack on defenseless homeless man on July 5th, 2011, was captured on video, and seen by dozens of witnesses were quitted of all charges. The horrific murder and the subsequent verdict highlight our indifference to the homeless and mentally ill who live in the hundreds of thousands on the streets.

The headlines have flashed across the entire country. Former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the 2011 death of Kelly Thomas. Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force. There were actually six police officers involved that sad day.

Kelly Thomas was a 37-year-old mentally ill homeless man who was known by many people. Thomas was beloved, not abandoned, but mental illness kept him on the streets.

The facts are horrific. A 33 minute video captured the brutal attack on the side of a busy street. Onlookers and passersby don’t come to Kelly’s aid. Eventually, the bruised, bleeding half-dead Kelly was attended to by medical personnel, but it was too late. He died after 5 days on life-support.

Kelly’s beating at a bus stop was done in public. No one came to his aid. Cars and passersby watched. The investigators interviewed 151 witnesses — yes, that is 151 people stared, watched and did nothing — viewed seven surveillance videos and two videos recorded by witnesses on their cellphones. In addition, a recording device attached to leader of the assault, which all Fullerton officers wear, recorded the murder in vivid detail. Only two of the six officers involved are were charged in his death, four others that took part were not.

Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, waged a relentless battle to raise awareness about Kelly’s murder, the police cover-up, and ultimately about the fate of the mentally ill on our streets. Residents of Fullerton took to the city council to task and the FBI investigated the crime – but ultimately did nothing. Fullerton residents and the city were so shook up by the murder that they set up a taskforce to look for ways to improve the plight of the homeless in Fullerton. But none of that stopped the jury from exonerating the accused.

One of the main reasons that the jury could not convict the officers is because of indifference to the plight of the homeless. The numbers are staggering: hundreds of thousands of people call the streets their home every night. They sleep over subway grates, in alleyways and doorways. They are caught in a vicious cycle with no easy way out.

Those who call the street home are mostly ignored as if they do not exist. From time to time a passerby will show compassion, offering food, money, a kind word. Yet, most of us find ways to harden our hearts to their plight. We dismiss them as junkies, bums, beggars, or mentally-ill. Cities create laws to banish them from our sight. Yet, each homeless person, no matter their mental, physical, or hygienic condition, is a human being endowed with the same soul as anyone else.

In addition to their plight living on the streets of America, literally under our feet, the homeless are also targets of random murders across the country. Kelly Thomas’s murder was just one of many to make the papers.

Why are homeless people targeted for such random killing? Often because they are regarded them as less than human, murderers wrongly believed no one would miss these creatures of the streets. Some of the murderers have readily admitted that they calculated that no one would miss these people.

Kelly Thomas’s tragic life and death, and the resulting aquittle of the murderers, is another wake-up call to the issue of the homeless on their streets.

Hopefully it will not take more grizzly videos of a homeless person being bludgeoned, run-over, or stabbed and left to die by the side of the road for America to start taking notice.


Iran Must Not Be Allowed to Remain Nuclear

Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, implored Congress and the world to disarm Iran’s Nuclear program completely in an ad placed in NYT and Wall Street Journal. The powerful ad was organized by my close friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach who recently spoke at length about Iran at Pico Shul during his last visit. While Shmuley was not victorious in his recent congressional campaign, he is making his presence in the halls of congress known none-the-less.

The voice and conscience of the Holocaust is calling on the world, and Congress in particular to act. Yet, the White House has pledged to veto any new sanctions bills. Wiesel knows full well what the White House has said. But he is counting on the Senate to cast a vote tightening sanctions.

The Iranian regime has won a major victory. While crippling sanctions brought Iran to the table, President Obama and his ill-guided advisors refused to bring the regime to its knees. This is a grave mistake. One wonders what possible benefit could Washington have to refuse to press harder against Iran. We don’t have time for games of Risk. Israel – and the world’s – safety is at stake.

As any Persian Jew in Los Angeles will say, “You are a fool to believe anything that the Iranian government promises. You don’t trust them. And you certainly, never, under any circumstances, let them get the upper hand.”

Here is the full text of the ad below.

Iran Must Not Be Allowed to Remain Nuclear

If there is one lesson I hope the world has learned from the past it is that regimes rooted in brutality must never be trusted. And the words and actions of the leadership of Iran leave no doubt as to their intentions.

Should the civilized nations of the world trust a regime whose supreme leader said yet again last month that Israel is “doomed to annihilation,” and referred to my fellow Jewish Zionists as “rabid dogs?”

Should we who believe in human rights, trust a regime which in the 21st century stones women and hangs homosexuals?

Should we who believe in freedom trust a regime which murdered its own citizens in the streets of Tehran when the people protested a stolen election in the Green Revolution of Summer, 2009?

Should we who believe in the United States trust a regime whose parliament last month erupted in “Death to America” chants as they commemorated the 34th anniversary of the storming of our Embassy in Tehran?

Should we who believe in life trust a regime whom our own State Department lists as one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism?

America, too, defines itself by its words and actions. America adopted me, as it did so many others, and gave me a home after my people were exterminated in the camps of Europe. And from the time of the founding fathers America has always stood up to tyrants. Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons.

Sanctions have come at a terrible economic cost for the people of Iran. But, unfortunately, sanctions are what have brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table.

I appeal to President Obama and Congress to demand, as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and the regime’s public and complete repudiation of all genocidal intent against Israel. And I appeal to the leaders of the United States Senate to go forward with their vote to strengthen sanctions against Iran until these conditions have been met.

I once wrote that history has taught us to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends. Our enemies are making serious threats. It is time to take them seriously. It is time for our friends to keep their promises.

Elie Wiesel

Nobel Peace Laureate

This Ad was produced by This World: The Values Network (LOGO)

Executive Director, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

And Sponsored by Michael Steinhardt, Board of Governors, This World: The Values Network; co-founder Birthright Israel


Jewish Lists: What it Tells About us

Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent column in Bloomberg, is a very powerful argument for canceling the recent proliferation of media-inspired “Jewish Lists”. This article is a must read. It also got me thinking about what the lists that we create today say about our generation, because lists are a valuable insight into our culture.

Whether we are aware of it or not, published Jewish lists have been around at least since the 6th century when of the scholars and leaders of the Jewish community in exile in Babylonia directed the academies of Sura and Pumbedita. These leaders, collectively called the Geonim were charged with making hard decisions and protecting the safety and welfare of Jewish communities. As such they worked hard to help keep continuity by making complex law and philosophy more easily understood. The famous scholar Sa’adya Gaon made a list of commandments in the Torah. He was followed by other rabbis, and the Ramban and Ramban both wrote lists identifying what they felt were the exact listing of Biblical commandments. Later the Sefer Ha Chinuch made a list of mitzvot, this time with a beautiful explanation of each mitzvah and this is still popular today – eight centuries later. (And let’s not forget the most cherished list, The Ten Commandments.)

More recently, it became popular to make lists of Jews in sports, music, film, writing, Nobel Prize winners, and other public Jews who are part of the tapestry of 20th century Jewish life. List making became a new who’s who directory of famous Jews. (Even the “Book of Lists” was written by a Jew.) What these lists have in common is a desire to highlight to the world and the Jewish community itself that we are making a positive contribution to society. We should be proud of our collective contributions to America, for example.

Within the community, it seems another reason for these lists is to inspire our children with Jewish role models — even if some of these Jews were never open or proud of their Jewishness. It seems as if the people making these lists think it will energize a listless Jewish community or perhaps make the community more inviting to any Jew standing on the margins.

Of course there are insidious Jewish lists as Goldberg so eloquently points out- such as the lists put together by Nazis, Communist regimes, other totalitarian regimes, Senator McCarthy’s infamous political enemies list, American White Power movements, Islamic radicals…just to name a few.

Recently popular list making is being scrutinized as doing more harm then good as pointed out eloquently by Goldberg. There is also Danielle Berrin‘s long expose about the 50 Most Influential Rabbi’s list and Dennis Prager’s column in the Jewish Journal.

There are other lists as well: The Forward’s list of top American Jews, the Forward 50 Fifty, and Most Influential Jews list by the Jerusalem Post — which seems to be the final straw for Goldberg. And there are others. (In full disclosure I have been listed on some lists, most recently on a list of ten top Jewish influencers in social media.)

The recent proliferation of media-inspired lists do not achieve the purpose that communal list-making served in the past. Instead of serving to clarify, inspire and teach about who we are as a people, as were the stated goals of our ancestors, today’s lists are of people and not ideas or values and can only serve to divide an already quarrelsome people.

We can honor the work of our Rabbis, leaders, thinkers and revolutionaries better by supporting their projects and causes, supporting and building upon the good we see them doing instead of putting them on a juried list that more than anything serves as a cultural barometer of the year the list was made.

Additionally celebrity list-making takes the focus and attention away from the real issues that matter in the Jewish community.

When lists are used to enhance our appreciation and the beauty of our heritage, the turbulence of our history, and the innovation of ideas they can have great use. Instead of a list of most influential individual people we could be giving people access to the great Jewish ideas of the past and present. Valorize the Jewish things that are making a more humane, safe and spiritual place for our people and all the people of our shared world. Let’s harness the power of list generation to better serve ourselves and the world around us. And we might even inspire a few Jews standing on the margins who just might want to connect to that which is worthy of their attention.