New York City is one of those crazy places where you can spring for a happy hour of drinks and appetizers for three colleagues that cost $200 and then get into a cab with a young man who left the Kandahar province of Afghanistan the year before the war began.

Sometimes I feel that the chasm between driver and customer is enough to explode the world.  Like fission or fusion or whatever the scientists try to do with the atom.

My cab driver can only meet his Afghani family in Pakistan because he, as an American citizen, is no longer welcome in his home town.  He is now “the other”; the one responsible for civilian deaths.  I know, without asking, that he is also “the other” here, in his adopted land (as is often the sentiment of naturalized citizens).  One has only to read the papers to realize the message we give our citizens of foreign birth and then to realize how that is magnified “on the ground”.

He is a displaced person even though he does not live in a United Nations tent city somewhere in Gaza or Tashkent.

My grandparents never had anyone left in the old country; those that stayed did not survive World War II.  They also had no desire to go back and visit a country that didn’t want them.  So, while not being “of America” had its drawbacks and prejudices, there was no other place to call home.

But this man, a son of Afghanistan, who needed to leave for economic reasons, can never go home again.  He loves America.  But he cannot go home to Afghanistan, his ancestral home, where his grandparents are buried.  The place of his birth, the place of his people, his language of origin.

War doesn’t just kill; it scars the living and the survivors.

Oh, the pain we have wrought.

Erev Rosh Ha-Shanah 5772

SOS (our son, source of sanity) decided that he preferred his former blog “handle”, TLP (the little prince).  I am worried.

But I was immediately distracted by how adorable he was in his blue blazer, tan slacks, penny loafers, and bow-tie and my heart melted.  Just FYI: I keep suggesting “regular” ties, but SOS (or TLP) demurs.  I think because he knows the bow-tie makes him irresistible to many women (not only his moms).  He doesn’t want to chance missing out on the “boob crush” hugs he gets from all the lesbians in the synagogue (hey, breasts are breasts).  When he gets taller and there is no boob bonus in the hugs, he’ll probably switch to regular ties. Just a guess.

SOS lasted nearly the whole service, which is quite extraordinary for an adult, let alone a child.  “E-Mom, does every word end in “echa” in Hebrew?”  Almost, buddy.

The service was a mixture of celebration, remembrance, solemnity and a little irreverence (we are after all, a gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and intersex congregation).

The Torah portion we read tomorrow the binding of Isaac by his father Abraham.  I have always hated this story.  A crazy father, a submissive son, and a psychopathic deity.  With a heritage like this, we should start therapy in utero.

What do we learn from that Biblical story, other than we shouldn’t read the Bible to our children, especially before bedtime?


I still don’t get why Abraham was so willing to kill Isaac that the angel twice had to tell Abraham to stop before Abraham put down the knife.

I don’t understand why it is part of our liturgy except for us to be horrified by it.  Our rabbi noted that the story seems to defy the requirements elsewhere in Torah for us, as a community, to teach, love and shelter all of our children.  Abraham, the parent generation, is so invested in his belief that he is willing to kill Isaac, the child generation, regardless of whether Isaac has the same commitment.

I never thought of it quite that way — we say we love our children but we send them to battle the wars we decide to wage.  It is as true then and it is today in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in countless other places where wars have been waged so long that no one remembers peace.  We are horrified at the ghastly stories of child abuse here and yet we barely remember that we have sent thousands of other people’s children to war this year alone.


Love your children.

Protect your children.

Teach your children.

Remember peace.



WAR.  We are a nation at war.  We forget that because, since September 11, 2001, no bombs have fallen on our cities.  WAR. 

WAR.  Everyday some of our children go to war and die for our collective safety.  WAR. 

WAR.  Our representatives in Congress voted for two wars.  So, these are our wars.  We own them.  Don’t look away because it is too ugly to watch. WAR. 

WAR.  You cannot turn it off like the TV.  It keeps on even when you cannot stand to hear another word about it.  WAR.

WAR.  The real enemies are not as easily vanquished as are TV villains.  The real enemies want to kill our soldiers and defeat us.  WAR.

WAR.  And they and we have more and better weapons to inflict wounds than doctors have resources to heal them.  WAR.

WAR. Even if soldiers come back in one physical piece, they have sacrificed their minds and happiness to the memories of war that time cannot erase.  WAR.

WAR.  We didn’t think long enough when we sent young people to die in Iraq.  President Obama thought long and hard about Afghanistan, as he should, because this is WAR.

WAR. If my son goes, then I go, too.  If there is a cause for which he should risk his life, then it is a cause worth risking mine.  WAR. 

WAR.  I pray that lives lost in Afghanistan are not lost in vain, as they were in Iraq.  Let us never be so easy about sacrificing lives again.  WAR.

WAR.  It is a small word.  It is a great tragedy.  WAR.

Mr. President, please let me see you sweat


Mr. President, I am sweating.  I am sweating the outcome of the healthcare reform votes.  I am sweating the outcome of financial system reform.  I am sweating the recession.  I am sweating Iranian nuclear proliferation.  I am sweating global warming.  I am sweating more troops in Afghanistan, which just seems to be a quagmire.  In short, everything on the micro-level of my life seems still as precarious as it was when you were elected. 

We elected you in part for your No Drama Obama comportment and you words of empowerment and calm assurance.  But now I want to see you sweat, too, Mr. President, in a take charge way.  Twist some arms to get the reform you promised.  Support the process of stripping health care insurers of the anti-trust immunity if they are bad players. 

LBJ was not Mr. Nice Guy when it came to getting Medicare passed.  And generations of Americans are in his debt.

Mr. President, be principled, be honorable and please be ready to rumble in order to get things done.

Soldiers and civilians will die whatever the Afghanistan strategy

G-d bless the men and women in our armed services.  They put their lives on the line in Somalia, on the DMZ between the Koreas, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and in many other places known and unknown.  They are heroes.  (Ok, there are some gross exceptions to the rule — Abu Gh’raib for example.) 

I hate the war in Iraq and I know I am blessed to have others fight those dangerous battles.  Regardless of how you feel about the war, the veterans deserve all that a grateful nation should give them — honor, respect, the best medical care in the world, the best jobs, the best education for them, their spouses and children, economic security in old age and even throw in a country club membership.  And still, there is no way to repay the dedication and honor of these brave souls who have seen and done the unspeakable.

Afghanistan seems to be a quagmire.  We are damned if we pull out, we are damned if we keep the status quo and there are no assurances of success if we commit further troops there.  In short, soldiers and civilians will die no matter what decision is made. 

I will not allow my son to fight unless there is an imminent threat to our country.  And, in that case, I will go to war with him to protect this nation.  So, I can’t say that other people’s children should go.

For everyone involved in the decision-making process, I hope they have children in the line of fire.  Then, I’ll believe it is the best decision and not a political one.


McCain thinks time is running out to send troops to Afghanistan?  Is this the same man who thought we could “muddle through” in Afghanistan and the real fight was Iraq?

Our last president sent hundreds of thousands of troops into a quagmire with an ever-changing rationale and an aimless strategy.

There is talk about how well the “surge” worked in Iraq.  Psssssst, Iraq is not Afghanistan.  Afghanistan has humbled would-be conquerors throughout history, the most recent being Russia. The terrain is rugged, the tribal alliances are unsure, the drug trade is king and the government is corrupt.

Before more troops go in, we need to have a defined, winning strategy (and then an exit strategy) against two different groups, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.  They ARE different groups, but right now are joined in common purpose, to drive out the NATO forces from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ironically, one country can help us with a winning strategy in Afghanistan.  And that country is the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Iran helped Bush’s military team early in the war until relations chilled again.  Then Ahmadinejad came to power.

Iran shares NATO’s desire to subdue the Taliban.  The Taliban is Iran’s enemy.  The Taliban ideology and jihadist purpose threaten to undermine the Islamic Republic, and Iran does not want to share a long border with a Taliban-controlled nation again.

So, we need Iran for success in Afghanistan and Iran needs us to be successful in Afghanistan.  Iran is also close to having military nuclear capabilities and the US backs sanctions.  President Obama needs to walk the thinnest of tightropes.

I know Jon Stewart pokes fun at the diplomatic tiptoe-ing around Iran, but whatever choices President Obama makes with Iran or Afghanistan will have consequences far beyond any sound bite or comedy skit.