Passing over Jewish values

Joseph Aaron

Happy Passover, Happy Easter. Happy Easter, Happy Passover.

I was stunned by how, on every talk show I saw last week, every news show I saw last week, every TV station, cable and otherwise, I watched, that was the message given over and over. Happy Passover, Happy Easter. Happy Easter, Happy Passover.

There is no clearer sign of how accepted the Jewish people are in this country, how respected the Jewish people are in this country, than that. The population of the United States is overwhelmingly Christian. The Jewish population of this country is less than two percent. And yet one of our most important holidays got equal billing with one of their most important holidays.

Showing how much that is true, reported that this year there were some 55,000 kosher-for-Passover items on store shelves in the U.S., up from 39,000 five years ago. And no less than the Wall Street Journal looked at whether only traditional foods like gefilte fish or brisket should be served at the Seder or if it’s appropriate to include things like lasagna ‘noodles,’ gnocchi and salad croutons, all modified with holiday-friendly ingredients.

55,000 kosher-for-Passover items in American supermarkets. An article in a national newspaper examining Seder meals. Because so much is so good for us these days, we don’t even notice when something extraordinary like that happens.

Did you notice, for instance, that just a few days ago, Mississippi passed a law that allows the state treasury to invest in Israel Bonds. Now, the state treasury will be permitted to invest up to $20 million of excess general funds in the bonds. Previously, the treasury could only invest excess funds into state banks or the U.S. Treasury.

This is Mississippi we are talking about, not New York or Illinois. We needlessly whine so much about so much that when extraordinary things happen that show how very much Jews are accepted and respected in the most important country on earth, we shrug it off.

So it was when, thanks to advocacy by a Catholic middle school teacher, the Kentucky legislature voted to make teaching about the Holocaust mandatory in public schools. We’re talking Kentucky.

The bill requires every public middle and high school in the state to include in their curriculum instruction on the Holocaust. It happened thanks to the efforts Fred Whitaker, a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School in Louisville – a Catholic middle school – who has been lobbying for mandatory Holocaust instruction for 13 years. He was joined by St. Francis parents and students who worked the phones and social media and stood on the capitol steps with signs in what became a full-court press for passage.

What a country when Mississippi votes to buy Israel Bonds and Kentucky mandates Holocaust education in all its public schools. Two states that are not exactly full of Jews and yet states doing something to support the Jewish state, educate about Jewish history.

If complaining was an Olympic sport, Jews would win the gold, silver and bronze every time. We are masters at kvetching, always seeing ourselves as in danger, always feeling under attack. These two examples, out of dozens like them each and every week, show what the reality is.

Another reality is that most of the problems we face today are of our own making, our having so strayed from Jewish values, so sold our Jewish souls in the pursuit of power and money.

How many times in the last few weeks have we heard the name Michael Cohen on the news, and never ever in a good way. Michael Cohen is Trump’s personal lawyer and the guy who claims he paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to a porn star to keep her mouth shut just before the 2016 election. Cohen didn’t want her talking about an extramarital affair she had with Trump, which Cohen and the White House say never happened.

Sounds credible to you, doesn’t it? A lawyer using his own money to pay a porn star to keep quiet about something that never happened. I ask any of you who have ever used a lawyer for anything if that lawyer would have ever paid for anything on your behalf out of their own money? These are people who charge you for a five minute phone call, charge you for making a photocopy, charge you for every single second of their so oh precious time.

And not only has Michael Cohen brought dishonor on the Jewish people, but then we have Cohen’s own lawyer David Schwartz, another very Jewish name all over TV, trashing Jewish values. To listen to him scream and bluster and say things that make no sense only compounds the damage being done to the Jewish people by Cohen.

One thing the whole Trump Russia thing has shown clearly is that lawyers are indeed the lowest form of humanity, and that journalists are the highest. Yes, I know I am not objective in this, but look at reality, which I know Jews are loathe to do. Look at the lawyers we’ve seen the last year or so representing Trump, as Mueller closes in. Mark Kasowitz, the Jew, who had to quit after viciously attacking someone on twitter, tweets he sent while drunk as a skunk. Jay Sekulow, born Jewish but who now calls himself a Jew for Jesus, and who in his frequent TV appearances reminds one of those old ‘Briskman and Briskman’ TV commercials. The aforementioned Michael Cohen. All have shown how sleazy lawyers are, shown the word games they play, the slimy tactics they employ, shown how little lawyering has to do with justice and how much it has to do with maneuvering.

Then look at journalists in all this. At how very many stories The New York Times and the Washington Post have broken, how much they have told us that we wouldn’t otherwise have known, how hard they have worked to uncover the truth, how many resources they have devoted to give us the real, whole story. For all of Trump’s obscene claims about ‘fake news,’ journalists have reported so much it is so important for us to know and have gotten almost everything right. Fact is if it wasn’t for a story in the Washington Post, there is a good chance Michael Flynn, Russian puppet, would still be national security advisor. Fact is if it wasn’t for a story in the New York Times, Rob Porter, wives beater, would still be working in the White House.

Journalism is a noble profession and the vast majority of reporters work very hard to bring us the truth. That is the reality, as much as Jews don’t see that, have become so consumed by paranoia that they fail to understand what the truth is. The sad fact is that too many Jews want their kids to grow up be lawyers, a very dishonorable profession, and not enough want their kids to grow up to be journalists, the most honorable profession there is.

And then we have Illinois State Sen. Ira Silverstein. Soon to be former Illinois State Sen. Ira Silverstein, since he lost his primary fight after having served for many years. One of the reasons Silverstein lost is that it was revealed by journalists that he had been exchanging highly inappropriate and sexually suggestive text and phone messages with a lobbyist. Very icky behavior by a politician with the very Jewish name of Silverstein.

I frankly was not surprised. One of the things I’ve learned being a Jewish journalist for more than 40 years is that you can pretty much tell everything you need to know about the quality of a person, especially a politician, by how they treat journalists. Yes, I know this too sounds self-serving, but it happens again to be reality.

Silverstein and his wife Debra, who is alderman of Chicago’s 50th ward, are clearly the most powerful Jewish political couple in Illinois. And so naturally this newspaper has been trying to interview them for years. And they always and only said no. We’ve interviewed the mayor of Chicago, the governor of Illinois, President George H.W. Bush, Barack Obama, soon to be Gov. J.B. Pritzker, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and dozens of other much more prominent politicians. But the high and mighty Silversteins always said no.

I have learned that when a politician says no to talking to a newspaper, it’s usually because they are afraid or arrogant. I always thought it highly suspicious the Jewish Silversteins always turned down the community’s only weekly Jewish newspaper. And so now that we know that Ira is a perv, it makes it clear why they did.

By the way, we interviewed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin when he was top Catholic around here and interviewed Cardinal Francis George. Both were very generous with their time. And yet despite repeated efforts to interview new Cardinal Blase Cupich, he keeps saying no. Not a good sign.

Finally, let’s end on two depressing notes. First, while respect for Passover shows how great we are doing in the world, two things going on in Israel show the rot that is infesting us from within. As Trump obsesses about how to keep immigrants out, punishing even those brought here as kids, Prime Minister Bibi continues to work hard to kick out 40,000 African immigrants who found safe haven in Israel after enduring hell in their home countries. He really wants to get rid of them and is coming up with all kinds of schemes to do so. That the Jewish state of the Jewish people doesn’t understand the need for us, of all states and all people, to be compassionate toward persecuted refugees, does not speak well of the state of Jewish values today.

Second is the case of a young Israeli soldier who walked up to an unarmed, injured Palestinian terrorist lying on the ground and shot him in the head, killing him. While rightfully, the army’s chief of staff harshly condemned that and said that is not how an Israeli soldier is trained to behave, many politicians in Israel defended the soldier, who was sentenced to all of 18 months in jail. That was then reduced to 14 months. Just before Passover, the sentence was cut again, down to only eight months. Eight months in jail for killing an injured, unarmed yes terrorist in the head. What message does that send about the value Judaism places on human life? Especially considering that the soldier still has not expressed any remorse.

Passover showed that the world clearly loves the Jewish people. If only the Jewish people were clearly showing they loved Jewish values.

3 Comments on "Passing over Jewish values"

  1. Again! I read an article, disagree more and more with the author’s point of view as it goes on and on, and at the end am surprised ( but not really!) To see that it was written by Joseph Aaron.

  2. Sarah Rabens | April 8, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Reply

    I really love getting the Chicago Jewish News every week, and both my husband and I read it cover to cover. We haven’t received it these last two Fridays, and hope it’s only a mail problem.

  3. Lawrence Block | April 9, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Reply

    For Joseph Aaron to state that “lawyers are indeed the lowest form of humanity” based on the actions of a few lawyers working for Trump is so outrageous and so far removed from the “highest” form of humanity that journalists are alleged to represent that it defies credulity. Mr, Aaron should be ashamed of himself. If journalism is a “noble” profession, as Mr. Aaron claims, he would do well to refrain from condemning the legal profession, which among other things, has fought to preserve his right to speak.

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