April 2011

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      The Jewish entity has been perceptible for over well over 3500 years in legend, folk lore and their imperishable Torah—the FiveBooks of Moses.Inall this time it has beguiled, instructed, admonished, inspired,and exhorted—and even at times threatened--- us on the upward human path to mortal holiness.Still only a very tiny aspect of the human mass on PlanetEarth.  Now evidently only about two tenths of one percentof all sentient mortalswith no enriching thoughts of obvious near term growth. Indeed, strenuously still divided against their fellow avowed otherJews into many disagreeing and discordantsects and sub sects.In all their long and still tenuoushistory,still agreeing only on two fundamental principles--- according to modern Jewish sages---never again a horrendous atrocity such as the Holocaust,and the establishment of a national homeland such as Israelon the biblical holy site of ancient Jerusalemand surrounding land, sacred to all three western faiths---Jew, Christian and Moslem.

      That postage stamp size entitymandatedby the United Nationsin l948,---the state of Israel--- no bigger than a tiny dot on a world map, even only most minuscule on a regional map of the middle east,has never been accepted by the    neighboringArab states, who still vow “to push the Jews into the sea” and thus void this last place of refuge and safetyin the evidentlyenduring human bias against Jews.

        And since its inception over 65 years ago the Jews of Israel have had much anxiety in settling into this somewhat less thanexuberantly welcoming atmosphere.The somewhat grim reality involved in “taking out the daily garbage”that a rulingJewish entity had to oversee in the dubiousArab Jewish attempt at concord and perhaps cooperation.Indeed, the dynamic former Arab leader, Yasser Arafat, always agreed at the frequent “peace sessions” with the Israelis and neutral UN mediatorsto comply, but then speaking ardently in  Arabic to his own followersthat their prime goalwas exactly that which Hitler vowed in his most compelling Nazi ardor------Yuden Frei---Free ofJews!The fascinating andand frightening thing was that most people knew what Arafat was really saying.  Also that the  first thing that little three and four year old kids in a mosque type schoollearned was not basic toilethygiene but how to remove very carefully thepinfrom a hand grenadeand throw it at a Jewish soldier.Of course, for a while only dummy grenades were used.   And most probably they were well toilet trained before they could aim at a soldier witha truly lethal grenade. This educational regimen was also nota secret,but well intentioned people hopefully ignored it.  As they did Hitler and his book Mein Kampf, written while he was in jail in l924.  Where he elucidatedclearly his hopes and fears;prominent among which were the dangers of both greedy Jewish malevolent capitalists and Russian Bolshevik revolutionaries.Easily conflated by the willing potential anti semite that the demon Jew was a necessary societal target for removal and perhaps eradication.  Arafatclearly skillfullyfollowed in Hitler’s very successful anti Jewish polemical tactics.

      Three direct wars, indeed,have been fomented by Arab arms,startingwith the l948 rejection of the United Nation declaration of the validity of the new Jewish state,then the l967 and 1973(Yom Kippur War) attacks,both successfully repelled by the new Jewish State.   A period of resigned, grudging acceptance followed, but true compliance was never achieved.  Instead the insidious terror of individual suicide bombing began and the Jews,more or less in self defense,curtailed their nascent hiring of local Arabsto fill the jobs their growing enterprise was creating.  Instead creating hindering check points to screen possible terroristsfrom entering Israel.And now building a nationwide tall mesh fence, to reinforce the screening check points already in place. In Israel itself there was already home grown violence,the organized rock throwing of Israeli Arab children and young adolescents known as the Intifada.And in the rear of the child rock throwers often adult Hamas troopswhothe Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had to avoidfor    fear of hurting the rock throwing youngsters,  who inadvertently(?) no doubt,were shielding the Palestinian soldiers.And well thrown rocks,can be lethal too!

        Most importantwas the fact that in all        the ensuing years after Israel’s victory and acclaimed statehood, won with battlefield approval by the United Nations, Arabintransigencediplomatically---by refusing to sign a peace treaty, left open their still festering wound and increasingsympathyfor the Palestinians became more common.Now they gradually became the underdog, and the Jewish nation slowly became the ‘Nazi like Israelistate’.The idea of a Jewish State, and the central concept of Zionism, as in ancient times,  became inverted to a racistconcept,even though about 20% of the citizenry, with full voting privileges,are Israeli Arabs. Andthisanti Jewish feeling is again rather fashionable in higher social circles,as openly manifested—most embarrassingly--by a French high level diplomat as “that shitty little state”just a few years ago.

           Most  importantly,however,  is the overriding still all powerful United States support forIsrael.And in the higher levels of governmentthey are well represented with three Supreme court justices of Jewish heritage and thirty Jewish members of Congress----one senator and 29 representatives.However,the good news seems to falter at the cruciallower organizational levels. According to the National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS) an in depth thorough decennial survey, while the USpopulationin the last 50 years has grown about 100 hundredmillion—from about 200 million to 300 hundred million--- the Jewish population has remained static,at about 5 to 6 million people.  A positive spin would call this “stable”while a somewhat more realistic nay sayerwould be very disturbedand call this a distinct implosion.  A puny two or three per centof a burgeoning strong country dynamic.    However, this is also a country where to be God fearing or at least God respectingis now quite respectable! Despite our increasing secular mode we now have the admiring, if oxymoronic, designation of the United States asthe “exceptional country” where we still believe idealistic things like “I am my brother’s keeper” and “I am created in God’s image”   and the “lion shall lie down with the lamb” and     a “childshall lead them”.All sound Hebrew Biblicaladvice and hopes which still resonate deeply in the Schechtman soul!!

      That is why I have involuntarily and perhapsinadvertantly becomea card carrying member of that nameless but persistent new Jewish sectthat I now hereby officially dubas the Reconservadox Jew!Some of this of my own creative stumbling forward, but mostly the interaction of compromisewith what swirling modernity brings about. And mostly in relation to the inner emotions of sentient and impressionable children. And thus what both of my wives and my own mature reflectionnow believe as viable loving doctrine for comfortable andproductive family  interaction.Essentially what that great and much quoted Hebrew prophet Isaiah proclaimed----“and a child shall lead them.”That is,Istarted out as an ordinary Jewish youth in Boro Park, Brooklyn,then as now, one of the mostthoroughly Jewish enclaves in theworld.   Inhabited by struggling immigrant eastern European Jews of  the pale of settlement; from Poland, Lithuana, and western Russia. Part of a wondrous mix of struggling, aspiring people who wanted mainly to assimilate into the goldene medina----the land of great opportunity. Including, besides many avowed devout religious Jews, but also significant amount of secular, atheist, and even a few anarchists whose prime goal was financial reward.    When I was a callow youth Borough Park was somewhatwas more secular;thenas joke, during a breakin the davening(prayer chanting)on the Sabbathin schul( house of worship) we somewhat bored kids once stealthily tied some of the fringesof the prayer shawlsof these very venerable menvery stealthily, around nearby chairlegs,or other slender posts.   Then,when the service resumed, and they hurried back to  their seats,  many tied down talliesem (prayer shawls) were left dangling behind.  As well as many irate gossip loving prayer participants most unhappywith this very frustrating Sabbath turn of events. A stern letter of rebuke to all parents ofyoung boys and pre adolescents put usback on the straight path to orthodox conformity; even before Borough Park became even more orthodox due to the large scale infiltrationof various Chassidic Sects,who are mostly even more scrupulous in theirworship of the tenets of their Jewish faith.   As I matured,after my Bar Mitzvah,I steadily became more secularandweaned away from my traditionalroots and Jewish orthodoxy.Full adolescence decreed not only sex but also psychologyand science. (Freud and Havelock Ellis).  Or at least some pseudo alluring version thatteenagers could use as part of their nascent rebellion  against parents.

      This relatively moderate mix of secular orthodox elements stood us in good steadthroughout my young adult life,   untilour young children became a more important factor in our total family situation.Iand my late wife had marriedrelatively young,a notunusual phenomenon in those days,especially when both sets of parents respected our wishes and had the financial wherewithal to help support the embryonic dentist ---Myself---   then only a senior at New York University College of Dentistry.However those kind, loving and hopeful parents soon were rewarded with grandparenthood status with our first two children,a girl and a boy.  And we,the youthful and striving parents that we were soon began torealize that we were doing whatancient Jews started doing 2500 years ago---then and even now.We were “a whoreing after strange gods.”  As our ancient prophets such asIsaiah, Amos, Hosea, and many others have insisted,we were almost going overboard in our social convivialityto establish the “new young dentist” image in our newLong Island community,so we would have an important mental first in the minds of equally new earnest residents needing and seeking that important first dentalvisit for all that vital necessary and long term dental care.

      So,much as we ferventlyhoped new patients would eagerly materialize at my new offices in the growing suburbia of Long Island,   a few years later we were two eager parents seeking a compatible Judaism for our sensitive and selective off springand their equally picky parents.   We had moved awayfrom what we then regarded as the hindering life style restrictionsof orthodoxyas we knew it in Brooklyn and were dabbling in various other varietiesthat were around.And there were a few other nascent groupmodels.Reform, conservative,and avery small Reconstructonistgroup that met bi-weekly in member’s homes.  We chose the Reform Temple because of the young charismatic rabbi who was perhaps even younger than we were.  But quietly fluent, evidently sincere and compelling.Andsoon learned that there was much room at the top!That is, anew suburban temple eagerly makes good use of all willing hands.  And I guess,fortuitously,  I was at that age were less mundane,crass material aspects ofexistence as making enough money, or only perfecting my golf swing,became more important.  The complex mystique of myth and reality in our 3500or moreyearJewish heritage literally enthralled, troubled and challenged. Soon I willingly accepted different posts and assignments,and began to attend every Friday evening service.  In answer, I suppose,not far social reasons but whether we were positioning our kids for a wholesome religious experience.And by that time we both knew that a religious reverence of some depth was vital.

.   (In Reform theology the prime Sabbath service is Friday night.When a Bar Mitzvaoccurs then the Saturday morning service has precedence).

      This routine became my infallible routine and and when lookedaround one Friday night a few years laterI was the president and we had a new Rabbi!  The young, charismatic prior onehad lost some of his conviction and gone on to more alluring posts.  But we continued for many yearsin the Reform ranks, perhaps with less of the zeal of new members but still dutiful dues paying fairly regular attendees.   But then a marked,almost drastic disruptionplanned deliberately but still quite unsettling.    We uprooted ourselvesfrom the fairly placid retirementroutine  of Long Islandand moved acrossthe not so wideHudson Riverto Princeton, New Jersey,where my second wife’s familylives, mostly in Conservative Judaism’s ranks.  For a while we joined the large Reform temple not too far away,but found the Conservative Temple much closer and we knew some of the people from our brand new neighbor new neighborhood—plus,of course some of her family.But most important was the compatibility of the theology.  Two sides of a reverent religious Jewishmessage not as stringent  asthe  orthodoxy we perceived heretofore.  To paraphrase Robert Browning “God’s in his heaven,All’s right with the world”.

     However, there is one other crucialtest of the validityof my Reconservadoxy.  Another of my childrenhas embraced Lubavitch Chassidism,one of the more dynamic outreach Jewish religious sects, with world wide implications.   They believe stronglyinurgingmore Judaism on existing Jews.While I am inordinately proud of my other splendid children when I see his seven childrenand grandchildren and my steadily accumulating great grandchildren,in the face of almost insurmountable hardships thathe and his valiant wife had to overcome with ensuingbirth defects,I am quite grateful and proud.  And I realize that there quite different dress and way of life does not handicap our true familial and religious ties.  And Reconservadoxy maybe be only an age old Jewish way of “touching all bases” as we all of faith, in our ownway,await the judgement of God and/or history. But, of course, at the moment the Jew View is somewhat dire and while we certainly do not need a Red (Reed)Sea miracle, it would be most reassuring if somehow Ahmadinajab and his malevolent anti Israeli diatribes would somehow disappear.And reconservadox Jews can then still find their most comfortable niche—myself included!!-- in the usual broad spectrummentioned above, so that we and our fellow Jews gain momentum against the inevitable inroads assimilation is making.   Not only is Israel in constant peril but our home diaspora base in this country is evidently shrinking.  Intermarriage and assimilation are the twin culprits.

      Most somewhat feckless Jews--myself included--- are still standing hopefully in place waiting to keep the so called 614th Commandment

(there are 613 in the Torah).This latter edict is by Emil Fackenheim,noted Jewish theologian Emil Fackeneheim of the  Holocaust.  Essentially he “commands”that all Jews must not give Hitlerhis posthumousvictory by forgetting their Jewish roots and identity.

         But unfortunately nobody is saying Heil Hitler any more, but who’s Hitler?!