Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

An brief essay about Jews in America, a small town synagogue, the LGBT population and their freedom to be whomever they chose to be, under the protection of the Constitution…by Robert M. Katzman and Joyce E. Katzman:

Filed under: Friendship & Compassion,Jewish Themes,Philosophy,Politics,Rage! — Bob at 6:03 pm on Saturday, March 21, 2015

Haym Salomon (April 7, 1740 – January 6, 1785) was a Polish-born Jewish American businessman and political financial broker who immigrated to New York from Poland during the period of the American Revolution. He helped convert the French loans into ready cash by selling bills of exchange for Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance. In this way he aided the Continental Army and was possibly the prime financier of the American side during the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. He died at the age of 44 after the end of the war, penniless. He did more than help finance the war against the British. He gave everything he had.

Or, put another way, American Jews did whatever they could to help create the ultimate safe haven for themselves less than three hundred years after the Spanish Inquisition, which was world-wide and not just confined to Spain.  The colonial Jewish population in 1776 was approximately 2,500 among an estimated total population of 2,500,000 colonists. One 10th of one per cent of the total population. Obviously, Jews needed protection.

After George Washington became president in 1789, he wrote a now famous August 17th 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island, personally guaranteeing Jews in America protection from harm from any others, including the government. A personal statement like that one, and in writing, from a country’s Head of State was unique in the world at that time. I also believe that likewise, the Jews owe such protection to others of different beliefs, manner of dress and customs. Who are we to judge others?

Current American population is approximately 330,000,000. Estimated American Jewish population is 6,000,000.  Jews are about 2% of the population and shrinking.

The LGBT population is estimated to be about 10% of America’s total population, or 33,000,000.  Jews, at 2% of them, would be about 600,000 individuals with hopes and aspirations of happiness and acceptance from their families, friends and institutions. However, today about half of them living in America suffer from discrimination, persecution and diminished rights.

This is a terrible crime and Jews should do what they can to right this wrong, nationwide. I have read about incidents in small towns where members of some very conservative Jewish congregations have insensitively excluded people who are open about their sexuality from participating in ancient rituals.

To treat such a person with any sort of rejection, discrimination, or religious exclusion is to reject how we expect America to treat all Jews, everywhere in this country.  My wife Joyce and I, Jews in both spirit and in practice say clearly this is unequivocally unacceptable to us. We two may be only infinitesimally small voices in a universe of prejudice. But two small voices can break the loudest of unjust silences. Whatever you may be, wherever you may be, why not add your voice to ours?

Together, we view a person seeking the freedom to be who they truly are as an equal of ours in every way and we would seek such a person out to be a friend of ours if he/she would accept us as one. As we treat others, God judges us.

Signed,

Robert and Joyce Katzman

Note: below, George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Tuoro Synagogue

Gentlemen:

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

 

Robert M. Katzman
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A Public Essay about Small Stores…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Depression and Hope,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death,My Own Personal Hell,Rage!,Retail Purgatory — Bob at 1:14 pm on Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 2014

Public Essay: Why support small Brick-and Mortar stores? Why bother? Some old man or woman selling a limited selection of whatever they sell or create. Walmart, Target, E-bay, Starbucks are infinitely more accessible, have mountains of things to sell and are coast to coast enterprises. You see one, you’ve seen them all.

 

Then why travel? Why visit little villages with unique pottery or cool coffee shops? Why go anywhere or meet anyone with the passion to create an imaginative, determined and one of a kind store? The odds of success are irrational. Some shopper can usually buy anything the small stores try to sell for so much less online. Brick-and Mortar shops?? Why not kill ’em all and just stay home in bed punching buttons and have stuff brought right to your door? That’s the life we all want, isn’t it?

(Read on …)

I Seek the Praise of Ordinary Men, a 2007 poem of protest against war in Iraq…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Depression and Hope,Friendship & Compassion,Life & Death,Politics,Rage!,Social Policy and Justice — Bob at 8:40 am on Friday, October 24, 2014

I originally wrote this poem on Friday, April 13, 2007, after interviewing Mike Hecht, the 88-year-old man who wrote the forward to my first book. He was the cantor on Yom Kippur (Jewish Day of Repentance) in my temple for forty years, the now sadly extinct B’nai Torah in Highland Park. His job, an honor in Judaism, was to blow the shofar, or ram’s horn to announce the beginning of a new year, every Rosh Hashanah, usually occurring in the fall.  Mike died May 16, 2009, a week after his 90th birthday. I saw him the day before, May 9th, and gave him a birthday card featuring Yoda from Star Wars on the cover with the movie’s theme music playing when he opened the card.  He laughed, as he lay on his bed, and then asked me as I turned to leave him, “But Bob, who is Yoda?” Surprised at the question I paused, thought about how to explain the connection and then said, simply: “Mike, he’s you. Yoda is you.”

That was the last time we spoke.

This is the link to my eulogy for him. I miss him still. http://www.differentslants.com/?p=701

I noticed there was a line in the last part of my description of Mike that seemed to vibrate. I thought about what it meant, what I really was trying to express and that line became the title of the poem. I realized it was a protest against the 2nd Iraq war began by then President Bush and VP Cheney, after false clams that there were weapons of mass destruction there. Years later, Iraq is now disintegrating into three parts.  A new war is now raging there, and the future of the area is unknown.

I also added this part (in 2007) for people to think about:

Today, beginning last night, is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Take a moment to think about it. Whether you are observant or not, whether you think about Judaism less than a minute a year, would have made no difference to Hitler. Who your grandparents or great-grandparents were, would be enough reason for the Nazis to kill you.

I think about that, and wonder what I would have done, if I were trapped in a situation like that, today.
What would you do today, if you knew then, what you know now?  Maybe the poem will motivate you to action. I hope so.

Robert M. Katzman

(Read on …)

Aloft in Wisconsin…by Robert M. Katzman

© October 11, 2014

 

She called me her Eagle. I called her my Swan.

 

We collected many of those ceramic birds at yard sales and flea markets, over the years. Now they have all flown away, somewhere. We remaining two old birds have shed so much besides feathers. All the chicks are also gone. Feeling weightless is so freeing, but we now seek a smaller nest.

 

Our exploration of the possible has gradually taught us about seeing life, land, rivers, shores, some buildings abandoned and some buildings preserved. And how we learned to perceive people differently, as well.

 

Not so surprising to us, but nevertheless causing a stark loneliness was a confirmation of our assumption that in so many small places with red-painted farms, “The People of the Book” have run out of pages.

 

(Read on …)

A Rabbi Can’t Mend a Broken Heart…by Robert M. Katzman (updated)

Filed under: Jewish Themes,Philosophy — Bob at 1:28 pm on Wednesday, September 24, 2014

(copyright May 1, 2011)

Introduction to: A Rabbi Can’t Mend A Broken Heart

This new poem was inspired by, and written expressly for Rabbi Debra Nesselson.

Watching her blossom over the last year from being a relatively quiet figure heard from the bimah only occasionally—to becoming the voice and face of B’nai Torah Congregation to the world—has fascinated me.   She is her own fairy-tale.

Today, Friday June 10, 2011 Debra Nesselson becomes a Rabbi for the rest of her life.

Her choosing to leave behind a career as a lawyer after spending seven years to become that, to spending another eight years transforming herself into a Rabbi so she could understand the law in a far more fundamental way, means Debra has spent fifteen years to get to where she is today.

More than a quarter of her entire life.

How many people would ever consider doing such a thing?  Very few. 
Maybe we didn’t know what we had in our new Rabbi before today, but we certainly do now.

Here’s my poem to celebrate her new role in this important Jewish institution.
If anyone deserves a poem to contemplate their lives, it’s Debra Nesselson. 

(note:Rabbi Nesselson left our temple two months later. Not all things make sense, but what I wrote about rabbis remains what I believe.  I still respect and care about Debra Nesselson. (2nd note) After a tumultuous period of temple politics over philosophy, and a merry-go-round of different rabbis, the sixty-year-old temple closed almost exactly three years after I first posted this poem.  A tragedy.  This note was amended on September 24th, 2014, just before the beginning of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, 5775.  I remain friends with and infinitely respect Rabbi Nesselson.)

                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  (Read on …)

The Curious Cops of Wales…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Cops,Depression and Hope,Friendship & Compassion,Jewish Themes,My Own Personal Hell — Bob at 10:26 am on Thursday, September 4, 2014

Originally published on © October, 2008 I was a very obscure writer. Now only slightly obscure, and hopeful

(#1 of 4 chapters, all here this time. 21 rich pages or 15,775 words. Don’t be shy. Take a chance on me)

Bendith Duw ar Bobl Cymru a`u plismyn gwaraidd!!!
(God bless the Welsh People and their civilized policemen!!!)

My original motivation to travel to Britain for the first and only time, in 2001, was to investigate Notting Hill.

Notting Hill was long famous, even before the warm-hearted film of the same name with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, for its incredibly congested, unbroken mass of bargain-seeking and perspiring humanity crushed within its mile long length, as the best flea market in Europe.

While I did find beautiful ceramics, overflowing tables of eccentric flotsam and jetsam, and the original 1964 Beatles periodicals I was actually seeking, as well as a priced-to-sell full suit of medieval English armor for mounted combat or jousting, the memory I find that lingers longest are my three unplanned days in Wales.

The distance from London to Cardiff, the capitol of Wales, was slightly less than driving from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin. Interesting places are much closer together in Great Britain than in the States. The approximate size of the former homeland of the world wide British Empire is about the same size as Illinois and Indiana, together.

Britannia…small, but mighty!
(Read on …)

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