Monday, June 30, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Unite (up on the roof) for Change

A lazy summer weekend. I went to a party last night for people on the Obama Foreign Policy Network, and a group for young foreign policy professionals for Obama. The party was supposed to be a roof-top shindig, but as I was arriving, it was raining. Once I found my way upstairs, I found the party on the 4th floor, indoors from the rain. It was a little too hot inside, and the rain died down, so we headed back upstairs.

The night proved to be rather nice, and we enjoyed the cool postdiluvian breeze and lighting show, with the occasional punctuation of fireworks. The collection of people were pretty interesting, and a good sign of the young Obama braintrust. I spoke with people who worked for the State Dept, DOD and other assorted lobbyists and lawyers. I chatted with one girl named Jasmine, who is an Iraqi and just arrived here via Jordan.

I also ran into an old friend from Edmund Burke named Caitlin Price. Caitlin and I had been very good friends during high school, but drifted because of our various relationships with other people and their various neuroses. She is studying photography these days at Yale. She always was a very, very good photographer- far better than this shutterbug.

Anyway the night ended as we toasted Obama's primary victory with champagne.

I was driving home tonight, listening to CSPAN and they were playing some old transcripts of the Reagan-Carter debate before the 1980 election. Reagan said something that was apt, and I I will post here as a question for all Americans to ask themselves as we enter the election season:

"Next Tuesday is Election Day. Next Tuesday all of you will go to the polls, will stand there in the polling place and make a decision. I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago?

Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago?

Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago?

Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?

Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago?

And if you answer all of those questions yes, why then, I think your choice is very obvious as to whom you will vote for. If you don't agree, if you don't think that this course that we've been on for the last four years is what you would like to see us follow for the next four, then I could suggest another choice that you have. This country doesn't have to be in the shape that it is in."

After these last 8 years, we need to be asking ourselves the same questions. If the answer is yes, by all means support the Republicans. But if you feel otherwise, then it is time for the change that is Obama.

Friday, June 27, 2008

La plus ça change

The more things stay the same- in Zimbabwe and Russia. This was brought into clear perspective for me in the the last book I finished (The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy), and the book I am currently reading (The Scramble for Africa by Thomas Pakenham). I will explain.

I just finished reading Tolstoy's "The Cossacks," which is a wonderfully written story of a Russian soldier basically going native and falling in love with the Cossacks' way of life and also with a rugged Cossack girl. It was a semi-autobiographical story written by Tolstory in 1863. The soldier happens to be stationed there because his regiment is helping to subdue Chechnya and Dagestan, who are fighting to be free of the Russian yoke. A century and a few score later, Russia is still fighting for control of Chechnya and Dagestan, and Grozny has been flattened for pacification purposes.

Meanwhile, one of the things that has truly been unreported in the Zimbabwe conflict is the tribal nature of the fight between the ZANU-PF (Mugabe) and the MDC (Tsvangirai). Tsvangirai is a Matabele, and so are many of his constituency, while Mugabe is a Shona.

It's hard to succinctly get into all the history into this struggle. Basically, the Matabele are a Zulu tribe that moved north away from Shaka, and left a lot of destruction in their migration north in a turbulent period called the Mfecane. This was a period of tremendous unrest in Southern Africa, caused in part by the dislocation of various tribes. Anyway, the Matabele headed north and settled in what is Zimbabwe today, setting up their capital in Bulawayo. They fought with the Shona, and carved out a home called Matabeleland. The Shona had their own territory, Mashonaland which ended up part of the Matabele kingdom and under Matabele domination.

This was all semi-well and good, until the intrigues of one Cecil Rhodes came into play. Rhodes set up his own imperial company, the British South Africa Company to exploit gold, diamonds and other riches in their colonial territory.

I mentioned this all gets confusing, I will try to sum it up. Anyway, all of this is part of the Scramble for Africa, with Rhodes taking Mashonaland in 1888, which had been under control of the Matabele king. However, the MaShona territory was not economically viable for Rhodes' company, and he decided to conquer Matabeleland to keep his business venture of a colony afloat. Rhodes sent his forces under control of a rogue-adventurer named Leander Starr Jameson, the ruler of MaShonaland to conquer Matabeleland. The BSAC routed the Matabele king and his forces, and annexed the territories together to form part of what would become Rhodesia. Fascinating stuff that makes a complex history that isn't easily summed up.

There is another element that has received a little mention, the class struggle in the Zimbabwe/South Africa dynamic. Tsvangirai and the MDC have roots in the labor movement and with unions- so does Jakob Zuma, the head of the ANC and probably the next president of South Africa who spoke out against Mugabe's repression. South Africa's current President Mbeki, who has behaved as a pathetic parakeet in this whole conflict, is both at odds with Zuma and the unions and close with his mentor Robert Mugabe.

Why is any of this relevant? We are witnessing the aftereffects of colonial ventures that went poorly, and we are still paying the price for adventurism gone awry. Meanwhile, we are viewing tribal conflicts through narrow, incomplete lenses that don't offer us the full, complicated story. Nothing is as simple as it is portrayed on CNN; it didn't start yesterday, and it won't end tomorrow. It is all part of the same poisoned page of the history book that we have left on the shelf and forgotten.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Rockower Awards

The Rockower Awards were last night. I am not making this up, there really are awards with my name on it. The American Jewish Press Association has its annual Simon Rockower Awards ceremony for excellence in Jewish Journalism. Simon Rockower was my great-grandfather. I was the surprise keynote speaker/MC at the Rockower Awards in Boston in 2005, and gave opening remarks in 2006 in Baltimore.

Here are the remarks I gave in 2005:

Shalom y’all, as we say down in Texas. My name is Paul Rockower. I am the Press Officer for the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest. Simon Rockower was my great-grandfather.

I would like to thank the American Jewish Press Association for having me here tonight. It’s not every day that you get to introduce an award with your name on it.

Winston Churchill once said, “The farther back you look, the farther forward you can see.”

Tonight we look back on the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Simon Rockower Awards. I am here to impart to you a little history of the award whose name I am proud to share.

The award was created a quarter-century ago, by my Grandfather Harry and his brothers, as a centennial tribute to the life of a dignified man. My grandfather died shortly after this award was created. Tonight I am here to honor both their legacies.

Like the story of so many, Simon Rockower left his native Austria in search of the dreams and promises of a new land. In this country, he found it.

His progeny have become physicists and physicians, lawyers and businessmen, and yes, even journalists.

He was a man who taught his children to always ask good questions, something they taught, L’dor v’dor, to their children.

Simon Rockower was a man who deeply cherished his people, and always supported their betterment.

One of his deepest pursuits was bringing not only relatives to America, but also bringing the friends of relatives and the relatives of friends to this land.

Simon Rockower believed that self-respect was gained by being proud of your religion and your people.

As a century tribute to Simon Rockower, the Rockower family created this award to honor him and his deep love for the craft of Jewish Journalism.

Simon Rockower believed in the importance of leaving the legacy of a good name.

The excellence of your newspapers brings honor to his name. The excellence of your newspapers brings honor to our people.

Now, this sounds like the beginning of a joke but… I was on the road from Providence, sitting on a bus next to a Catholic priest. He reminded me that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few things.

In an age of compromised journalistic integrity, the field of Jewish Journalism remains committed to the truth. There are no “Jayson Blairs” in the world of Jewish Journalism. You faithfully tell the story of our people and of our homeland Israel. You tell Israel’s story in a clear voice, even when it is being maligned by the mainstream media. Your commitment to the truth remains paramount and unwavering.

With that said, it is my honor to begin the 25th annual Simon Rockower Award ceremony….

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to Bitter

The weather this weekend has been lovely, and has made for considerable lounging outside. Friday I went with my mom to the Kreeger Museum. The museum is in the home of David Kreeger, who ran GEICO. The museum itself is a large building designed by Philip Johnson, and is a lovely structure of travertine marble and arched, domed ceilings. The art collection is wonderful,consisting of works by Picasso, Degas, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, and Cezanne among other. There is a room of nine Monets, which are gorgeous. There are also numerous statues by Rodin and others. I think my favorite painting was one by Ziem, an artist of the Romantic period. It was a painting of Istanbul, specifically of giant white mosque and minarets against the bluest of days. The different levels of blue into white in the sky are captivating, especially in its dreamlike quality with the mosque in the painting. This painting greets you as you walk in, and sets the tone for the museum.

I spent Friday night with my friend Nora at her house. We sat out and had pizza and homemade strawberry shortcake with her parents, sipping turkish coffee and chatting about the world. Her father works for USAID and was heading up the mission in Iraq. He is an interesting fellow to swap travel stories with.

Saturday morning I attended a potluck for my citizenship students, as it was the end of the official school year. I ate a bevy of different foods ranging from Indian to Vietnamese to Salvadorean.

Saturday night was spent at a bbq at my friends Emily and Matt's place. Emily works for the DNC and her boyfriend Matt works as an aide for a congressman, and their friends are all connected in various Democratic causes, organizations and congressional staffs.

I spent the evening talking with three girls who were very connected in the Hillary campaign, and they were just a tad bitter. They were still clinging to their guns and their religion of Hillary the high priestess. The discussion stayed civil and interesting as we discussed what went wrong (caucuses, Mark Penn), what they would have done differently (humanizing Hill in Iowa) and where they saw the race going. We had a bit of a difference of opinion over newschannels, ie they hated MSNBC and Keith Olberman, which I love. One girl mentioned that during the campaign, she had begun tuning into Fox News for its favorable coverage of Hillary, which made me gasp and scold her to take a step back and examine what she was really saying. Yes, the party is coming together, but it became evident to me that a little more healing needs to take place to pacify their residual bitterness.

The night went late over games of Beirut, something I haven't played since college, and cherry-banana hookah and discussion of the veepstakes. Now, just lazily enjoying the day and the sunday news roundup in a hammock under a tree.

There were a few articles I read this morning that stood out, so keeping with the theme of bitterness:
Nicholas Kristof on the bitterness between Israel and Palestine.

The bitterness of living in Putin's Russia

The bitterness of the Zimbabwe (s)election.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm voting Republican

A little smug but hysterical.

More food for thought

An interesting article by Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post on why a lot of the flooding in Iowa is a man-made catastrophe.

Also, another interesting comment post from the Levantine Project.

Friday, June 20, 2008

in response

Thanks Musafira for a very good response, which I am posting:

Although, of course, my gut reaction is to always attempt to argue in favor of caring about Darfur, I have to say that your initial assumptions about it being more complex than it has seemed in the media is very true. The article is good, and I appreciate that you pointed it out, however it makes the huge mistake of saying that the complexity and confusion we now see in Darfur is a dramatic change. We seem to forget that the rebels in Darfur started this whole thing themselves, basically as a power grab. The decades of civil war between the north and the south was finally coming to a close, and the south had finally made some genuine gains. As a part of the peace deal, they were getting rights and a seat in government. The rebels in Darfur, who had been just as cut out of the political wheelings and dealings in Khartoum but had never been quite as firm about sticking up for themselves as the southerners, saw this and basically decided "We want some too!!" And so, they started an uprising, demanding that they get what the southerners just got. Obviously, this didn't go over well in Khartoum, and so they reacted as they had elsewhere - gave some local thugs some guns, and said they could keep the spoils. The outside world had never previously cared when this happened, why should they care now? Unfortunately, the civilians got caught in the crossfire. In Sudan, this is business as usual.

So yeah, it's complicated. But not new or different. I should probably, therefore, take a minute to explain why I am currently dedicating my entire academic and professional career to Sudan, without ever having attended a "Save Darfur" rally. In short, it is precisely that complexity that leads me to believe that we must have intelligent and motivated people truly engage themselves in this and related issues, otherwise these kinds of messes will continue to reoccur. Suicide bombings are abhorrent, but that does not make home demolitions just or productive means of response. Being daily treated as subhuman is unconscionable, but that does not make shelling settlements appropriate or helpful. These are analogies from Israel/Palestine, but yes, Kosovo, Iraq, Somalia, Burma, and countless others are also incredibly complicated. Nelson Mandela is still on the terrorist list because he started as part of a violent movement, while we used to subsidize bin Laden. This is one of the largest failures of modern media - complex stories without clear good guys and bad guys don't sell, so everyone gets typecast.

Disengaging from the complexities, however, only makes the problems get worse. Then, as has happened in Darfur, things spiral downward and exponentially, until a resolution becomes harder and more costly. Meanwhile, more people suffer every day, because we find lapel pins to be more compelling.

The complexities of Darfur

There was a reason that I never jumped on the "Save Darfur" bandwagon. Early on, I likened the Darfur conflict to the conflict in Kosovo, and how despite the awfulness of Milosevic, the Kosovo Liberation Army were pretty thuggish too. I don't mean to sound callous, but I always considered the situation far more complex than it ever seemed to be portrayed in the media. The good vs. evil portrayal never squared with the reality that there are a lot of players in the conflict, on the Darfurian side as well as the side of the Khartoum government. A Washington Post article today is an affirmation of my point of view.

On another note, an amazingly prescient article written by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson on September 11th. Thanks Nora.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The politics at the kitchen table

Interesting article in the NY Times today about the politics of bananas.

And a little more food for thought in (separate) articles from the New Yorker on Keith Olberman and Hugo Chavez.

And a bitter Guinness to wash it down from Roger Cohen called "the Muck of the Irish."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abba's day

I spent yesterday downtown with my grandfather. He came in from Philly by train and we met at Union Station then took the metro to the National Gallery of Art. We visited the Afghanistan exhibit, which was interesting but not compelling. We both have a more romantic art taste and both enjoyed a gallery of French paintings from the late 19th century more. Later, my brother joined us and the three of us went out for dinner. As always, my grandfather proved he is the coolest, as he sat out drinking fernet and cola and smoking hookah with his grandkids.

Today I watched the poignant "Meet the Press" program in memory of Tim Russert. It was even more moving, as I watched it with my own father, who is the same age and had survived the same malady that took Russert. My sympathies are with the Russert family on this Father's Day. Happy Father's day to my Abba, who is a warm, wise and wonderful father.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Meet the Angels

Like so many, I was deeply saddened to read of Tim Russert's unexpected passing. "Meet the Press" was part of my sunday staple for a long time, and I spent many a sunday morning watching his tough but fair inquiry. As someone who likes good questions, Russert was the best. His warmth, candor and frankness will be missed, especially going into this election cycle. I found Washington Post's Dan Balz praise of Russert to be most touching.

And one more I found posted on the talkback on a story on the Washington Post:

"Neither Sunday morning, election night, nor the political season will ever be the same again. Russert embodied insight, intellect, integrity, and impartiality. Best of all, Russert was always a class act -- a pretty amazing statement for a political junkie! Somewhere at the pearly gates, I imagine St Peter with a dry erase board that said, "Heaven, Heaven Heaven."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Golan

I was just in Israel when it was announced that Israel and Syria were holding secret negotiations over the Golan Heights. It was front page news, but seemed to be quickly overshadowed by the political mess that Olmert is embroiled in.

From Moshav Almagor, the home of Nitzan our Israeli tour guide on the Birthright trip, I got to see a great view of the last 5km that Ehud Barak and Hafez al-Assad couldn't agree over, the slope that runs down to the Sea of Galilee. It's strategic value was apparent, but to paraphrase Moshe Dayan, I still believe Israel's strategic position is better with peace without the Golan Heights than with Golan Heights without peace.

I firmly believe that the inability to reach peace then left Israel in a compromised strategic position today. If Israel had reached peace with Syria then, it could have withdrawn from Lebanon in a far different fashion- one that wouldn't have harmed its deterrence capability. It is also not unreasonable to think that Israel could be at peace with Lebanon today and very likely that the second Lebanon War would have never taken place. I have talked about this failure with Prof Moshe Ma'oz on a number of occasions. He is an expert on Syria, and was involved in the talks, and we are of similar opinion.

Anyway, I bring this all up because of a good article in the Jpost by Larry Derfner.

There is a sign that become ubiquitous whenever peace talks come up with Syria: "Ha'am em haGolan" (The People are with the Golan). That may be the case, but Ben Gurion always said, "A leader doesn't do what the people desire, a leader does what is desirous for the people." It would be nice to see some leadership from both Israel and Syria for a change.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

poker and hubris

I was playing poker tonight at my friend Jed's place. Jed is a nemesis, and is always someone you aim to beat. I was doing very well, and went up big early. I beat Jed pretty badly a few times, and was sitting pretty as the chip leader. Jed got knocked out early, and sulked on the sidelines.

Later, I got a little too brazen and lost pretty big on a decent beat; anyway, I was still in, even if I was hurting a little. At some point, I declared that it didn't matter if I won because I had beaten Jed badly all night- that in itself was a victory.

A few hands later, I was going head-to-head with another fellow who was also a little short on the chips. I thought I was looking pretty good on trips Queens and I went all in. The other fellow tossed his cards and had trips 10s; he dejectedly congratulated me.

I start collecting the pot and eying my return, when I hear from the sidelines, "I probably shouldn't say anything, but someone has a flush." Sure enough, it was Jed on the sidelines pointing out that my opponent didn't realize what he was sitting on. He had a flush and didn't know or notice it. My return became my exit as I was booted from the table on what was now the losing hand. How sadly apt that Jed got the last laugh on me. I thought I was safe once he was gone from the table, but apparently not. As always, hubris is man's eternal downfall.

Passages done and gone

A few morsels gleaned from a few finished pages.

"because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like a fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Windows on Beings and Doings
Smooth is the skin of the woman who irons.
Tall and bony, the man who repairs umbrellas.
Plucked, the woman who sells chickens.
In the inquisitor's eyes shine demons.
Coins lie behind the usurer's eyelids.
The watchmaker's whiskers mark the hours.
The janitor has keys for fingers.
The prison guard looks like the prisoner and the psychiatrist looks crazed.
The hunter becomes the animal he pursues.
Time turns lovers into twins.
The dog walks the man who walks him.
The tortured tortures the dreams of the torturer.
The poet flees from the metaphor in the mirror.
-Eduardo Galeano, Walking Words

Windows on Invisible Dictatorships
The sacrificing mother exercises the dictatorship of servitude.
The solicitous friend exercises the dictatorship of favors.
Charity exercises the dictatorship of debt.
Free markets allow us to accept the prices imposed on us.
Free expression allows us to listen to those who speak in our name.
Free elections allow us to choose the sauce with which we will be eaten.
-Eduardo Galeano, Walking Words

God said. "I had to make man so man could make me."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Throwing my hat in the ring

"How Hard Can It Be?"
Kinky Friedman's slogan for TX gubernatorial campaign 2006

Since the Veepstakes are officially under way, I would like to humbly throw my kippah in the ring. Granted, there is a tiny constitutional technicality that leaves me ineligible- my age. And meanwhile, my only previous experience running for Vice President was when I ran for the office for my elementary school when I was a wee 3rd grader. I got clobbered by a 5th grader, and probably didn't gain more than a handful of votes. Perhaps this was my own "Bobby Rush" moment.

However, like the good senator, I have community organizing experience, as I served as city councilman for Litchko City- my 2nd grade teacher's little fiefdom. Also, unlike the junior senator from Illinois, I was a senior senator at Edmund Burke High School. If I remember correctly, I think I tried to pass a measure to allow high school seniors who were 18 the ability to smoke during school hours.

So what other credentials do I bring to the table, beyond my broad experience in public office? I offer my considerable experience with (ehem...)international relations to help balance out the ticket. I also help balance out the ticket to ensure that Obama looks old and experienced in comparison with the bottom of the ticket.

Furthermore, I help him win Florida by my massive "get out the bubbe" vote. My "nice Jewish boy" charm will help win over the important Florida demographic, the COGS (crotchety old grandmas). Given my Texas experience and acumen, I also believe I can put the Lone Star back in play with a "shalom y'all" campaign.

However, I will readily admit that I am a liability for his Virginia outreach as I will insult Virginians as being the worst drivers this side of Cairo.

So, the darkest of dark horses is officially out of the gates. Obama-Rockower '08!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Miri Ben-Ari On Apollo

Israeli hip-hop violinist video

Late Spring Cleaning

As you can see, I changed the template of my blog. I got tired of the old one, which looked way too much like a North Korean flag.

Also new pics up from my trip to Israel.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mazal Tov, Harry

My little brother Harry graduated from Walt Whitman High School this week. A mazal tov to you, little bro. Harry had a rough start to high school, amid some real melancholy days. Yet he rebounded nicely, and managed to walked across the stage on Thursday. He's off to College of Charleston in the fall, on a nice little scholarship to the honors college. In the meantime, he left this morning to the time-honored tradition of Beach Week.

We sat outside yesterday, smoking cigars and chatting as the day's humidity broke into evening's humility. I remembered back to my graduation from high school and the excitement that was in the air. It felt as if I was pulling out of the back roads of my neighborhood and driving out onto the highway. He is a little more subdued about all of it, perhaps because he is a third child and has been through the routine as an observer. Even if he is too cool to be celebratory, I am so happy for him and the long road that lays just ahead of him.

There was a nice little piece that was circulating around the time I graduated from high school called "Wear Sunscreen."

Progress at the Lunch Counter

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Editorial Advantage blog

Yes, I do indeed have a day job when I am not out wandering the world. I work at a publications firm called Magnificent Publications ("For the Knowledgeable Reader") in DC. I have a few blog entries on their blog, The Editorial Advantage, the latest being about my Birthright trip, the program's success in keeping alumni tied in.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Welcome to the Dream

"Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come."
-Victor Hugo

Congratulations to Sen. Barack Obama for sewing up a hard fought victory tonight. I just watched his victory speech from Minnesota, and was moved by its eloquence and brilliance. I also welled up a little as he thanked his grandmother for raising him to be the man he is today, and as I thought of my own grandmother.

As a nation, we have come a long way when we can look into the mirror and see President Obama's face staring back. As the good senator noted, the road is still long and fraught with difficulties. Yet, tonight there is hope that is palpable and change that is possible. I will end this post with the words and the dream of a man who can only be smiling from up above on this momentous night.

"I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Loving Memory II

A passage from Leo Africanus, to mark the passing of my grandmother:

Too often, at funerals, I hear men and women believers cursing death. But death is a gift from the Most High, and one cannot curse what comes from Him. Does the word "gift" seem incongruous to you? It is nevertheless the absolute truth. If death was not inevitable, man would not have wasted his whole life attempting to avoid it. He would have risked nothing, attempted nothing, undertaken nothing, invented nothing, built nothing. Life would have been a perpetual convalescence. Yes my brothers, let us thank God for having made us this gift of death, so that life is to have meaning; of night that day is to have meaning; silence, that speech is to have meaning; illnss, that health is to have meaning; war, that peace is to have meaning. Let us give thanks to Him for having given us weariness and pain, so that rest and joy are to have meaning. Let us give thanks to Him, Whose wisdom is infinite.

In Loving Memory

While I was away leading my Birthright trip, my grandmother Maxine Sablosky passed away. Since I couldn't return for her funeral, I left a note in the wall asking for her peace. Our Shabbat in Jerusalem came the day after we visited Yad VeShem and Har Herzl. During our sabbath services, I asked the group to remain standing for the Mourner's Kaddish in memory of all those who perished in the Holocaust, in honor of all those who died defending Israel, and on a personal note in honor of my grandmother.

I am posting the words to the Mourner's Kaddish:

Magnified and sanctified be G-d's great name in the world which He created according to His will. May he establish His kingdom during our lifetime and during the lifetime of Israel. Let us say, Amen.

May G-d's great name be blessed forever and ever.

Blessed, glorified, honored and extolled, adored and acclaimed be the name of the Holy One, though G-d is beyond all praises and songs of adoration which can be uttered. Let us say, Amen.

May there be peace and life for all of us and for all Israel. Let us say, Amen.

Let He who makes peace in the heavens, grant peace to all of us and to all Israel. Let us say, Amen.