Monday, June 28, 2010

Stand With Us Come to Israel Summer 2010

Stand With Us! Come To Israel!

From The Heart

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor


At the Rabbinical Assembly Convention held this past May the Israel Ambassador to the United States was asked what we, the Jews of America, could do for Israel. He answered: Stand With Us! Tears came to my eyes! After 62 years of sovereignty, the Ambassador of Israel would have to say those words?!? And that was before the Gaza episode! What else could I do? I support Israel by signing on-line petitions. I donate to our Federation Campaign, a portion of which goes to Israel. Ruby and I "have given" Israel our own flesh and blood when Tzeira made aliyah. We have visited as often as we could. Yonina just studied there for a year, and Menachem is imbued with the same zeal and advocates for Israel most strenuously and passionately. What else can I do?


I turn to you for that answer!! Through this bulletin article which is being sent out on the listserv, on my Facebook page and on my blog, I am sending out this message:

                        Stand With Us!!                                  Stand With Israel!!

            Not just with words.   Not just with donations.         Not just with signatures.

                        Come to Israel!!          Stand with Israel!!         In Israel!!!!


Ruby and I propose to lead a trip to Israel at the end of this December, 2010.

We have not chosen dates. (We will be flexible.)I don't know how much it will cost. (We'll do our best to make it affordable.) We haven't created an itinerary. (We'll take your input.) Those are the easy parts. I will use the company, ITC that served us so well in our trip in 2006. We will see the special highlights; be informed by Israeli representatives; meet members of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement; visit Emek Hefer, our partner in P2K; walk the streets, smell the aromas, and dine Israeli cusine.


Most importantly we will make a statement: We are here!! We Jews are with Israel!! We stand as One Jewish people!! We give our heart, our hand, our neshama, which sometimes is superior to our dollars, no matter important they are.

Israelis will know that they are not alone in this world!!!


We seek at least twenty individuals who will join us (the more the merrier!) Contact me as quickly as possible at I will begin preliminary work with ITC on possible dates for an eight to ten day trip. Those who wish to stay longer can have their tickets arranged in advance to come earlier or remain later. While we might be tourists, we will be tourists with a historical, emotional, and spiritual mission. We will tie the pieces of the Jewish people together!


I recommend that you click on the following link (or paste into your web browser) that brings you to an article written by Ed Koch, former major of NYC. Read carefully the most articulate, passionate words of the Spanish politician, journalist and activist Pilar Rahola. Check your calendars and contact me. We passionately look forward to receiving your reply!

            Meanwhile, Ruby and I wish everyone an enjoyable and refreshing summer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gilad Shalit: Four Years Later Four Years Too Late -- (June 25, 2010)

Gilad Shalit – Four Years Later – Four Years Too Late

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

June 25, 2010

Richmond, Virginia


When Ruby and I led our synagogue tour to Israel in the summer of 2006, Gilad Shalit had just been captured, kidnapped in a terrorist attack at the Keren Shalom crossing point into Gaza. The terrible of irony of these past days in the demand for 'humanitarian aid' to be allowed to enter Gaza, this was one of those crossing points. How does the world expect material to enter if the Hamas terrorists attack the Israelis on their side of the border? Why does the word "humanitarian" apply to "them" and "not to us?" [I don't like the answer I have, but from millennium of hatred of the Jews is the answer that they don't consider us human.]  It is inconceivable that four long, hard years later he is still in captivity. His parents have been tortured during these years with longing to know if he was even alive. It is not that the State of Israel has not tried to free him. They have. But it is at the price of extortion, of allowing those with Jewish blood on their hands to go scot-free and terrorize and murder again and again. To this Israel will not agree.

Perhaps it is because of the brouhaha created over the flotilla off the Gaza seacoast, and this phony cry for more "humanitarian aid" which was only a vaguely veiled attempt to break open the gates for missiles of all varieties and the materials to make them so to rain down on Israel [which they have continued to do but in only very limited amounts because of the blockade] which is none too humanitarian [depending on how you look at this!] that we, the Jews of the world and of the State of Israel, raise the name of Gilad Schalit as the true humanitarian issue of the Gaza Strip. We pray every morning that God should 'matir asurim' – 'release the imprisoned.' We have to add our voices, our names, to His so to stir all possible places from Heaven to Earth for his release and return home.

To that end I have added here two sources that I have received. Even though I am in Richmond seventeen years, professionally I have kept my relationships with the New York Board of Rabbis and through them to the New York Jewish Community Relations Council. I urge you, I beg of you, to follow the links below and add each and every name of your family and friends to the petitions and messages. There must be a welling up from the Jewish people. It is about Gilad and not about Gilad. Certainly it is for his freedom. Yet the denial of the term "humanitarian" to an Israeli, to a Jew, transcends the individual to our people. It is the denial that we are humans and deserve the same respect, same dignity, the same protection of law, to which everyone else is entitled. The last ones to say that were the Nazis, and no one challenged them. We rise up and challenge the world!! We rise up in fullest self dignity, with a true democratic homeland, with pride, and will not be silent!! Or will we?

Shabbat Shalom


As many of you are aware, Friday, June 25th marks the 4th year of Gilad Shalit's captivity. Let him know you care.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY) will bring your message, along with thousands of others, to the International Committee of the Red Cross and demand that Hamas allow the ICRC to visit and deliver the notes to Gilad in accordance with international humanitarian law. Since he was abducted in 2006 all such requests have been denied. We cannot remain silent in the face of Hamas' cruel violation of Gilad's human rights!

Send your message here:  (If this doesn't automatically take you to the website, please copy and paste the link into your internet browser window.)

We will also be sending a copy of your messages to Noam and Aviva Shalit.

For additional resources on Gilad Shalit, please visit (If this doesn't automatically take you to the website, please copy and paste the link your internet browser window.)

As issues arise, the JCRC-NY will continue to provide you with meaningful opportunities to digitally engage with issues affecting Israel and the Jewish community at large.

To forward this message to a friend click here.


Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis

Often as we take leave of our loved ones, we say, "We love you, see you soon."  Noam Shalit, father of kidnapped soldier and son Gilad has reminded us during the past four years not to take those words for granted.  He has also taught us the importance of these poignant and painful words, "Please do not forget my son."

An ancient legend tells us that when God created the world, He assigned different names to every flower in the universe.  The next day, God reappeared and asked each flower to repeat the name given to it.  Each responded immediately except for one.  That flower said, "God, I do not remember the name that you gave me.  Please tell it to me again."  God turned to the flower and said, "Since you do not remember the name I conferred upon You, I will give you a different one. Your new name will be Al Tishka-chay'nee which means Forget-Me-Not."  According to the folk tale, that is the origin of the flower's name.

Four years ago, a blossoming young man with a bright future named Gilad Shalit was abducted illegally from his family.  Since that fateful day, no international body has been permitted to see him and ascertain his well being.

This week, the fourth anniversary of his kidnapping, we faithfully fulfill our promise to Gilad's father as we demand his son's immediate release and return to his loving family.  Some will save a special chair for him in synagogue this Shabbat, some churches will dim their lights for a few minutes, some will travel on a special humanitarian flotilla with signs bearing Gilad's name and some will send letters again to leaders of our country asking that they raise their voices on his behalf.  We must renew our effort to remember Gilad Shalit.

Recently, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak remarked, "The only man in the Gaza Strip who needs humanitarian assistance is Gilad Shalit…A million and a half people are living in Gaza, and only one of them truly needs humanitarian assistance,

only one of them imprisoned, does not merit to see daylight, his health situation is unknown, and his name is Gilad Shalit."  The United Nations Human Rights Council which readily voices its vitriol against Israel is remarkably silent when Gilad is deprived of his human rights.

Rabbi Israel Leventhal z"l was very troubled by a rabbinic description of Balaam, mentioned in this week's portion of Balak.  According to our sages, "Balaam suma b'achat m'eynov haya - Balaam was blind in one eye."  Rabbi Leventhal writes, "I could understand if our sages told us that Balaam was blind in both eyes.  That is telling us something that makes a difference, that's important to know.  Why however do the sages emphasize that he was sightless in one eye?"  Rabbi Leventhal explains, "When Balaam looked at the behavior of other nations and prophesized about their fate, he looked clearly with his good eye.  It was only when he studied the life of the Jews, did he use his blind eye.  He had a blind spot for the Jews."

Does that description not summarize the story for us today in the world?  So many are willing to overlook the serious shortcomings of other peoples but will look unfairly at Israel to find the flaws.

This week's portion contains the famous words "Ma Tovu Oha-lecha Yaakov, Mish-keno'techa Yisrael – How goodly are thy tents O Jacob, Thy dwelling places O Israel." A strange sentence because firstly it was supposed to be a curse from Balaam and secondly, it seems superfluous – it mentions both Jacob and Israel, tents and dwelling places.  Someone once explained the verse to me in this fashion.  What each Jew (Jacob) will do in his/her own tent will be a reflection on the entire community of Israel.  Simply said, when we Jews stand in solidarity as one people and speak with one voice, we can confront the crises of life with moral strength and collective courage.  As the portion reminds us, we must seek to transform a curse into a blessing.  May we fulfill our promise to the Shalit family and soon see Gilad return safely to his home, reunited with those who have waited so long for that moment.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I wish to thank Rabbis Yaakov Kermaier and Mitchell Wohlberg for their invaluable insights.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chok and Mishpat - Is Religion of the Heart or Head June 18, 2010

Chok and Mishpat: Is Religion of the Heart or Head?

June 18th, 2010

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

Richmond, Virginia


Today is Ruby and my anniversary. We met in Camp Ramah forty years ago this summer. Despite whatever she tells me from her side of the equation, I "knew" – typed in quotations, immediately that she was very special, different from the others girls I had met. While I couldn't say that I said to myself "she is the girl I'm going to marry," I clearly acted like that until we did get married.


I open with these biographical remarks, typing the word "knew" in quotations marks because it is the most obvious way to exemplify that the word "knew" doesn't apply to the head but to the heart. But that is poetry because we know that the heart is a muscle and does not process emotions. The head does. But by saying "heart" instead of "head" we are really saying something else: There is some kind of unconscious, subconscious, unvocalized, non-rational, non-analytic process/formula that occurs. This stands in contradistinction to a rational, analytical, and conscious process where we analyze pros and cons, good and bad, bottom line, likes and dislikes. That didn't happen when I met Ruby. My heart – or was it my head – went thump, thump. My vision tunneled to exclude all others. Still does.


Let me transition.

What is the main word, the leitmotif of Judaism? If I asked you, as I do my Basic Judaism class every year, "Give me Judaism in one word" and you can't say God or Torah, what word would you offer?                                              My answer is: Love.


As liturgy is the main vehicle to understand core Jewish values and thoughts, we see that even when the prayers don't use that word, that is what it is referring to. God's creating the world, God's sustaining the world, God's choosing Abraham and his descendants – us – to be His messengers, God's revelation of Himself through the giving of Torah, the mitzvot of Torah, are all acts of God loving us, loving humanity, loving the earth. The answer to the question: "Why did God do any of this?" is: "God loves us." I don't why God did any of this. The Torah doesn't say "why." The Rabbis formulate their answers in the Midrash and "put them in God's mouth," but they are human answers and not the Divine.


If God foresaw what we would do to His earth, if He knew what we would do to the Gulf, to the air and to the land, and He still made it and gave to us?!? I have many more questions and still no answer from God. I can only make up what I hope that He was thinking.


If God foresaw what we would do to each other, the inhumanity of one to another throughout human history, the disparity of the rich and the poor, the degradation of slavery and genocide which is still going on, and He still created us?!? My questions multiply and my answers about God are still non-existent.

The only answer that I can posit is that God's love like our love is unexplainable in rational terms. The Rabbis imagine that when God told the angels that He was going to create the earth and humans they argued with Him not to do it. In the Midrash God did not enter into logical debate about creating the world and humanity. If He did, we would have lost!! It is only because God's love triumphs over any other value, an unfathomable love, an inconceivable, inscrutable, and undecipherable love by which we exist and so, too, the cosmos. There is no explanation that we can formulate other than love.


In a sense, when we look at a baby, when we look at the sky, when we look at each other, the operative condition is love. You can't teach it. You can't explain it. You can't rationalize it. You live it. It just is.


Once I posit as the foundation of my belief that there is a God, then there is the question: How do we relate to God? The obvious answer is: Love. And that is exactly what we say when we get to the S'hma: "V'ahavta…" "And you shall love…" We are not just singing along, we are not just mumbling a bunch of incoherent syllables. We are saying to God: I/we love You. And we do it every day, several times a day, when we get up in the morning and when we go to bed at night. Again, it is unexplainable emotion to see Menachem put Ariel, Moshe and Raya to sleep singing S'hma and V'ahavta, just as we sang him, Yonina and Tzeira. It is an emotion beyond words to believe that there are metaphoric divine arms that embrace us, as we use our human arms to embrace God. While I need words to express this to you and talk about God, about our existence, about emotions, the feelings, the object of my thoughts is beyond words. I can't teach this. I can't preach this. I can't explain it. It just is.


Tomorrow's Torah portion is known as Hukkat. That word refers to a law that is unexplainable. If God did not put it in the Torah, we would never have dreamed it up. The proper noun – Hok – is a law that does not yield its secret to any analysis. There is no good reason for it. There are several Hukkim in the Torah. In their inscrutability Hukkat stands in contradistinction to the only other word used in the Torah as the title of a sedra in this genre, namely Mishpatim, which refers to laws that have obvious explanation and rationale. In these we clearly see their utilitarian purpose and if God hadn't given them to us in the Torah, we could have and would have made them up ourselves. These two words stand in juxtaposition: Hok u'Mishpat.


Just like in my love of Ruby, I could, can and did come up with all the reasons I love her. With age the list only gets longer. I can explain and rationalize all those answer. This is akin to Mishpatim. But the "Why" the mystery of love is unanswerable and shouldn't be explained, that is akin Hok. This paradigm of explaining the love between us is the paradigm for explaining the love between God and us and us and God. I feel secure, comforted, uplifted in each love. No words can explain it. And there are no words to explain the love I give. I hope that Ruby and God feel as good as I do. May we all have unending and indescribable love in our lives. That which we receive and that which we give. Between each other. And with God.


Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Helen Thomas Should Get The....Out Of... (June 11, 2010)

Helen Thomas Should Get The ***** Out of *****

Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

June 11, 2010

Richmond, Virginia


The title of this piece should certainly catch your attention.


I really wonder about people sometimes. What were they thinking? What is really going in the back of their minds? What do they really believe, think and feel?  We now know about Helen Thomas. I also wonder about people asking questions? What was my colleague looking for from an eighty-nine year old lady? Was Rabbi Nesenoff just baiting the hook seeking a tasty tidbit? He got a mouthful! Yet make no mistake. Helen Thomas hasn't said anything new. It has been said long before. It is said every day in the Arabic press. This has been an eternal issue for the rest of the world:

            Where do the Jews belong?

            Should they belong anywhere?

            Should we exist at all?

Helen Thomas did not invent these questions or the responses. They have existed for two thousand years. And we as Jews might not like the answers. Then again, there are many parts of the world who won't like mine, including Helen Thomas. I intend to tell her where she can go.


We are very unique. We probably don't sufficiently appreciate our uniqueness.


We are the only people who have carried around a document – the Torah - for nearly three thousand unbroken years.

We are the only people who can scratch a piece of land and find what an ancestor wrote in the same language – Hebrew – that we use today.

We are the only people, whom one of our chief adversaries – Christianity – has their own book which is based on our book in which they claim to inherit who we were, which means that we were there – in the land of Israel, then, in the first decades of the first century.

We are the only people who have a second chief adversary – Islam – that claims to have a book based on our book which means that our book, which means us – we – came first, and their book talks about places were we were which means we were there first!

We are very unique!

Everyone one of our adversaries of the ages, Christianity and Islam, both testify by their own books that we lived in the land of Israel, PALESTINE, before either of them existed! Wow! We really were there, in the Land of Israel, Roman province of Palestine. About the only people who could claim prior residency are the Canaanites, and I don't hear anybody claiming to be their descendants. Essentially that means that we are the first and only people to have claim to this patch of earth, regardless of where any border line is drawn.

No body else claims to have built cities that we have through excavation, but us.

No body else claims to have built the roads and waterways that still exist, that we can trace from satellite pictures, but us.

No body has written love poetry about the land earlier than us.

And no body has vowed, pledged, sworn and promised to rebuild their autonomous existence on its soil, but us.







Some might want to say, even so, that when we left we relinquished our rights to it. WHO SAID WE EVER LEFT? This is also unique. It seems that everyone is always testifying that we are there.

The Greeks wrote about Alexander the Great meeting the Jews of Israel when he peacefully invaded.

The Romans wrote and left huge amounts of physical evidence that they fought two wars against us. And after the second, even though they expelled us from Jerusalem, continue writing about have to keep throwing us out. I guess we were still there.

When Christianity will rule the area, inheriting the Holy Roman Empire, they will continue to issue edicts throwing us out. I guess we were still there.

And when the Moslems wrest control from the Christians and when the Crusaders fight the Moslems both groups testify to horrors perpetrated against the Jews who are living there.

When the Turks and Ottomans control the area they take censuses of the population, and we are there. In fact, in many places, the majority of inhabitants are Jews.

When the British receive the Mandate from the League of Nations, we were there.





            It was taken from us through war, and perpetuated through persecution.



The truth be told, the answer to my original question, where do we belong, for Helen Thomas and others like her is –nowhere. Until the recent decades official Christianity still believed in the dénouement of Judaism and Jews as they were the inheritors of the covenant and of the name Israel. Mohammed was mad at the Jews of his time for their not adopting Islam because, he claimed, we messed up the authentic traditions, now Islam had it right, and all should become Muslims. And they conquered a huge empire by the sword. Christian Europe did not cry when they burnt our bodies in the Holocaust, having perpetrated centuries of pogroms and persecutions. Moslem North Africa, Middle East did not protest that slaughter and trumpeted their own designs upon us in 1948, 1967 and 1973. It never was a war to regain land. It was wars to destroy the Jewish State.


When Helen Thomas said that we should go back to Poland or to Germany I know what she really meant. Even if it was "just" he subconscious speaking, she meant for us to go back to the slaughtering houses and the crematorium and disappear like smoke, so that she and the world don't have to hear from us, see us, know from us – ever again. I get it. I get it loud and clear.


I have one word and only one word for her: NEVER!!

Never will we disappear.

Never will we bow our head.

Never will we wander homeless in the world.

Never will we be defenseless.

                                                                        NEVER!! EVER!!


So Helen Thomas shouldn't get the **** out of anywhere!

If she wants to play that game, she needs to trace her family's journey. And go back. Go back to wherever they came from. Her family didn't begin on this continent. Indeed nobody did. Even the Native American's didn't start here. They should go back to Asia over the land bridge. The English didn't begin in England. They were invaders. In fact, nobody began anywhere. Everyone moved into somewhere. So Helen Thomas can go wherever she wants. She can even stay here. And those of our people who so wish, will fulfill our destiny and live in an independent, democratic Jewish state of Israel in its ancestral land. The truth be told, at least according to the Bible, from the first man and woman, everyone began in the Garden of Eden, that singular place of peace and harmony. That's only the place to which to go back.

Shabbat Shalom.