One Account of the Jerusalem Violence

Israel deathThe murders in Jerusalem were, I believe, the first time terrorists had struck inside a synagogue.  The story is terrible; what follows is a truncated account sent to friends of a woman in the neighborhood.  I know some of the word are unfamiliar (I have explained a couple) and the names are unfamiliar sounding. I hope you can get past them and, whatever your politics, try to imagine this happening in the neighborhood where you live.

Dear friends,

Yesterday at about 7am my daughter Miri called. “Mordechai just came home from shul    (synagogue) . He said that Arabs came in and are shooting, and that a man with an axe is hitting everyone. Some of the people threw chairs at them, but it didn’t help”. The twelve year old had hit the floor along with everyone else when the bullets began to fly. He was fully aware of what was going on, and what it meant. He somehow found the courage to let go of his father’s hand, crawl towards the exit and break into a run.

Mordechai is blonde, freckled, and a soft spoken somewhat introverted and studious boy, much like his father, Shmuli. He is not Huck Finn, and the courage he found at those moments were a gift straight from G-d. By the time he finished telling Miri what happened, sirens from Hatzalah ambulances, police cars, and Magen David could be heard telling her that there were casualties.

“Where’s Shmuli” was the thought that entered her mind again and again as the seconds which felt like hours began to tick. She called me and said, “Say Tehillim (NOTE that’s Psalms –  often read as a prayer in such circumstances.) There is shooting in Bnei Torah”. I began to say the ancient prayers, knocked on my neighbor’s door and told her to do the same. Chani called and told me to look at the news to see what was really happening. Nothing was reported as yet. Of course not. It was only 7:10.

I realized that the whether or not the attack was over, that no one as yet knew whether the murderers escaped. I called again, asking that everything be done to see that no one leaves the campus, and then called Miri. Thank G-d she had the sense to stay indoors and not run to the besieged synagogue. When Mordechai came home, the shooting was still happening. By 7:20 we both realized that if she didn’t hear from Shmuli, something was very wrong. The police and other services had no information as yet to give to the public, but a family friend who had seen the terror with his own eyes, said that Shmuli had been taken to Haddassah EIn Karem. When Mordechai let go of his hand, he instinctively ran after the child placing himself in the sight of the terrorists. One of them attacked him with his axe, hitting him on the left side of his head, his back and his arm. Somehow he made it to the door. Josh White, a student of Machon Shlomo was riding down Agassi on his bike. He noticed what he described later as “a lot of confusion” in front of Bnei Torah, asked someone what was going on, and the man answered him in Hebrew.

In the midst of what to him was gibberish, he picked up the word Aravim (Arabs) and immediately grasped what was happening. He approached the shul and saw Shmuli who was still aware. The Machon student took of his shirt and stopped the bleeding, a move which may have saved Shmuli’s life. The shooting was still happening inside. It was about 7:15! The emergency crew drew back, but because SHmuli was already outside, they evacuated him thus making him the first of the wounded to be taken to Hadassah, another factor in his survival. Before collapsing, he asked where Mordechai was, and when he was told that the boy ran away from the carnage, he said, “Baruch Hashem”. Inside, the terrorists were continuing their “work”.

When they entered they turned to their left, and immediately cut down Rabbi Twerski and Rav Kalman Levine who were standing in the corner. Reb Kalman was the husband of Chaya, formally Markowitz who was a student and later a madrichah at Neve. Her husband was not a regular attendee of Bnei Torah. He would generally daven (pray) in the earliest possible minyan so he could get in a couple of hours of learning before beginning his day. Yesterday he had a question about something he had learned and had gone after davening to Bnei Torah to put the question to its erudite rav, Rabbi Rubin. The question will now only be resolved in the Heavenly Acadamy. Rev Avraham Goldberg, the third man to be killed is Breina Goldberg’s husband. Many of you know Breina as the warm caring efficient secretary cum mother figure at the front desk in the afternoon. I don’t as yet know how her husband, or Reb Kupinski the fourth victim met their deaths. The only thing that I know, is that it was brutal and swift.

The first policemen to enter were traffic cops who knew what they were facing, and also knew that they were not wearing protective gear. They entered anyway and together with the forces that came afterwards ended the bloodbath. By 7:30 the murderers were apprehended.

Miri, my daughter Guli, and her husband were in Hadassah. Miri’s other kids were watched by relatives and friends for the day. Mordechai was urged to speak about what he saw again and again in order to diminish the damage of the trauma he had undergone. The rest of the family flowed in, saying Tehillim and waiting for updates. The hospital social worker, Aviva, who is blessed with the rare gift of being empathic without being overbearing, and the women of Ezer Mitzion (a volunteer organization) kept us well supplied with food, calming conversation and practical advice. We were allowed to see Shmuli who was put under anesthesia. We don’t know if he heard us or not, but we were talking to him stressing that Mordechai was fine. In the hours before the surgery was done, we found ourselves with Risa Rotman. Her husband, Chaim Yechiel ben Malka, was also attacked, and the extent of his wounds are very serious. Some of you may know Risa (who if I am not mistaken also is an OBG) and those of you whose husbands learned in Ohr Sameach or who recall Reb Meir Shuster who he helped unstintingly for years, may know him as Howie. The policeman who entered first, passed away. May Hashem (God) avenge his blood.
Please please continue saying Tehillim (praying) for Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila and the other victims. Daven that Hashem give strength to the five new widows and 24 new orphans.

NOTE: Some of what I removed is about news coverage, which was not exemplary.   Some other material of a personal nature and I felt that I did not have the right to post it.


Off the Grid – Torah and A Major Light Show

Cheesecake I'll be offline until Sunday celebrating a somewhat (and undeservedly) obscure Jewish holiday called Shavuot.*  It celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai – a story I love not only for its religious importance but also because it sounds like such a wild light show.

16. It
came to pass on the third day when it was morning, that there were thunder
claps and lightning flashes, and a thick cloud was upon the mountain, and a
very powerful blast of a shofar, and the entire nation that was in the camp

Moses brought the people out toward God from the
camp, and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.

And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the
Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of
the kiln, and the entire mountain quaked violently

You know I'm not a Bible quoter but this is just so great and dramatic – isn't is?  Anyway I'll see you Sunday.    

*OH and the cheesecake is up there because this is a holiday that is, traditionally, heavy with dairy meals. 

Support for Obama Among Jewish (and Other) Religious Voters is High

Obama hebrew button large Wow.  One of my twitter feeds just posted this link:  Jews Unwavering in Support for Obama.  It's a Jerusalem Post story but citing a Gallup poll, reputable and usually more conservative than other top-level pollsters.

Here are the numbers:

Approval through Obama's first 100 days in office

79% of Jews voted for Obama

79% of Jews

85% of Muslims
73% of nonreligious
96% of liberal Jews

77% of “moderate” Jews

45% of conservative Jews w/exactly 45% disapproving


67% of Catholics favored Obama

58% of Protestants

45% of Mormons

And here's Gallup's graphic of the entire breakdown:
Gallup graph

Definitely interesting.

Introducing Tuesday Tours: Random Worthy Blog Posts

Tourist with suitcases
Welcome to Tuesday Tours.  There's so much good stuff out in the Blog Universe; we all have our blog readers filled with those we love.  It's tough to keep up though, so until further notice, I'll be offering Tuesday tours of some of my own frequent favorites.

One of my favorite bloggers, Pundit Mom, offers posts at two ends of the spectrum as the week begins.  Both are worth reading.  The first:  advice to the Obamas about the neighborhood around Sidwell Friends School.  It's just fun.  The second is a serious post with a serious question:  When is it right to tell an airline official that a passenger is making you nervous

Concerned about what's going on in Israel?  Check back daily at Writes Like She Talks, where Jill Zimon has her finger on what's up all over the Web.  Here's a sample.

The wise Maria Niles is looking to figure out all those generation labels like X and Boomer and Millennial — and what they mean (and what the heck her own is.)

Also "generationally speaking," you know that all last year I wrote comparing 1968 and 2008.  Well,  Time Goes By columnist Saul Friedman has done me one (actually two) better, writing of lessons from his own iconic president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Obama's point of reference, Abraham Lincoln. 

Beth Kanter is a legend.  Rightfully so.  So when she offers 52 ways for Non-profits to use social media efficiently as a New Year's gift to her readers, I'm figuring that at least some of them can help the rest of us too.

Two of my favorite moms have something special too:  I'm late on this one, but Her Bad Mother's description of a willful three-year-old (it's long so wait until you have time) is priceless.  Some kids are just strong strong little people.

Also, Woulda Coulda Shoulda's Mir Kamin celebrated her son's last single-digit birthday with a wonderful hymn to a newly-nine-year-old.  She never misses, that one.

Finally, this one – because the happy family in the photo is mine.

Visit This Jewish Blog Carnival – It’s Interesting

HaveilHavalim This carnival is fascinating – many sides of issues relating to Judaism, observant or secular Jewish life and, of course, Israel.  It's pretty diverse, take a look and see what you think.  Full disclosure: a post of mine is included.


Depression1Every decision my parents ever made was influenced by the Depression.  What we ate, what we wore, where we shopped, when and how we took vacations, what we "needed" vs what we "wanted" and, in their own lives, what careers they followed and where we all lived.  They had been teenagers in the Depression, and although both went to college (on scholarships and several jobs at once) neither studied what they’d wanted to.  I’ve talked about all this before – my mother refusing even to talk about her life then, my dad so concerned when any of us made a job change or took any professional risk.

I felt it too.  I still read menus from the price to the item, skipping the ones that are too expensive.  Ditto with price tags on clothes.  I’ve always clipped coupons and bought things on sale, shopped at big box stores and always, always read the unit prices of things. And, as an American Studies major I took several courses dealing with the Depression.  I needed to know more about it not only as a student but as a daughter.

I know that this is not the Great Depression.  I know that there are more protections in place, even if too many of them have been removed in the past eight years.  But the economic chaos of the past week has been scary on more than one level.  Of course I worry about us, getting near retirement age.  But my bigger worry is the impact such a colossal change will have on the lives of the younger people we love.  Our sons, first of all, at the beginning of their careers.  And all the families in this community who mean so much to us – just starting families and facing years of tuitions and outgrown winter coats and activity fees.  I also think about just-retired or nearly retired "elders" so well represented by Ronni Bennett’s blog, and all the people living from paycheck to paycheck — who will be endangered by cuts in hours and devastated by the loss of their jobs. 

And this is where Sarah Palin comes in.  And John McCain.  Because every day the level of negative language rises, the indulgent response to enraged constituents yelling things that should not be spoken in an American election or any other time: threats and  bigoted characterizations and more.  This kind of language is far more dangerous in a bad economy.  Hitler was successful partially because the German economy had so badly frightened people, men like "Father Coughlin" (that’s his picture) preached racism and anti-Semitism on the radio during the Depression with substantial response.  There other, less prominent hate-mongers too – and they had a real following.  People needed someone to be angry at and were vulnerable to that sort of demagogery.  It’s a very scary shadow over the economic crisis, the campaign, and the souls of the American people.   NOW, go read Josh Marshall on why the ghost of Father Coughlin haunts him, too.  And read this very thoughtful post about a tough electoral decision.

The consider what sort of leader allows such things – and doesn’t stand up and tell his/her supporters to cut it out?  What does that say about their leadership once they’re in office?


Mens_side_praying_our_group_wide The lights were out; all that remained were small spotlights where the readers sat.  It was a day of sorrow and mourning, so we spurned comfort and, as tradition dictates, sat on the floor.  In front of the Sanctuary, the readings began: Eichah – Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah’s horrifying account of an ancent time of soul-shattering misery.  Reading it aloud is part of the holiday** but,
since I was newly observant, it was previously unknown to me, as was the
enormous impact of the dimly lit room and haunting content and trope of the reading.
  That first time, just three years ago, I didn’t have a clue what was coming — that night or the next morning, when the readings continued.

Accompanied by a 25 hour fast, this all takes place on the holiday of Tisha B’Av – the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, to commemorate the multiple horrors believed to have taken place on that day.*

This is a lot of sadness (and foreboding of more to come) to have
taken place on the same date.  So it’s fair to observe a period of
mourning and remembrance.  What happened to me, though, was that the
language of mourning is so fierce, so hideous, and in some ways, so
applicable to what we see happening around us now, that it is almost
unbearable to listen to.  And so, the first time I heard it, I fled in
the middle and went across the hall into the childcare room.  My sweet,
ridiculously smart friend Aliza, with her
infant daughter and unable to join the prayers, was off to the side
praying on her own.  In tears, so troubled that I was trembling, I
interrupted her prayers, something I would never do otherwise, and
demanded to know why it was necessary for us to listen to this.  And to
know we’d be doomed to do so every summer.  In her quiet way, she
replied that perhaps once a year isn’t too often to recall these
fearsome times in our history.

At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but now, I’m,
shocked to discover that I look forward to this annual observance,
comes this weekend.  Why?  I guess after three years some of the shock
has worn off.  Of course there’s more: as usual when I listen to Aliza,
I’ve had to think harder.  One thing I’ve realized is that this day,
ignored by most Jews, is a kind of anchor — keeping us in place,
connecting us, those who came before, and those who will follow. 

I can’t trace my family past my grandparents on either side; all my
grandparents and their siblings came here years before the Holocaust
and any records of their ancestors were lost or destroyed as the Nazis
decimated Europe.  That they were Jewish, though, is irrefutable.  Now
I find that, although I can’t share their stories and traditions, we do
share a history.  I realize as I am writing this that moments which
commemorate that common history are not just religious, but also family
connections.  Our mourning on the 9th of Av honors not just God’s
anger, which led Him to allow the destruction of the Temples, and not
just the martyrdom of so many, but also each individual, unknown person
whose DNA is mixed with mine.

I had often
protested that we need to honor that which we value as the positive
attributes of the Jewish experience, not just the martyrdoms that
remind us of our history of suffering, but also the joy and pride
our tradition offers.  What I’ve realized is that we can’t forget..
There’s much to be learned by what’s
come before and by acknowledging our connection to it.  And this deeply
moving, haunting and humbling tradition is connected to each of us
now, this minute. 

*   With thanks to the OU  Tisha B’Av website :

  1. In the time of Moses, the "sin of the spies" whom he sent out
    to evaluate the situation in the soon-to-be conquered Canaan and who
    returned with horror stories that questioned God’s power to protect the
    Jews and caused Him to decree that none from the generation who went
    out of Egypt would be permitted to go into Israel.
  2. The destruction of the first Temple under Nebuchadnezzar. (587 BCE  – 3338 in the Hebrew calendar)
  3. The destruction of the second Temple under Titus. (70 CE – 3895 in the Hebrew calendar)
  4. The Romans conquered Betar, the last fortress of the Bar Kochba
    rebellion and Hadrian turned Jerusalem into a Roman city.   (135 CE –
    3895 in the Hebrew calendar)
  5. King Edward I signed the edict that expelled all Jews from England (1290 CE – 5050 in the Hebrew calendar)
  6. Jews expelled from Spain because of King Ferdinand’s decree   (1492 CE — 5252 in the Hebrew calendar)
  7. The last Jews left Vienna under expulsion orders there. (1670)
  8. World War I began  (1914 CE — 5674 in the Hebrew calendar)
  9. Himmler presented the plan for the "Final Solution" to the "Jewish
    problem" to the Nazi party. (1940 — 5700 in the Hebrew calendar)
  10. Nazis began deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.  (1942 CE — 5702 in the Hebrew calendar) 

**  Also, interestingly, quoted in Christian prayers for Zimbabwe,


I am now a member of a Blog Carnival called Haveil Havalim, a community of Jewish bloggers submitting posts of interest to the community interested in Jewish issues.  Today’s link, my first appearance, is called Daled Amos.  You’ll find it interesting, I think.  And if you want to know what the words mean, read this, written by the founder.  Meanwhile, take a look.


Blogging Boomers are back at I Remember JFK this week.  You can read about everything from saving gas by figuring out the "walkability" of your next apartment, to child-free vacations to prostate cancer.  All it smart, unique and useful.  Stop on by.