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Days of Atonement and Empathy | A Guest Post

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Ezra is a friend of mine and I think the point he makes in this essay is important and very relevant to many of the discussions and issues that we discuss on this blog and my Facebook page. – ef

A Guest Post by Ezra Butler

Growing up Orthodox, I was always instructed that Rosh Hashana is a time for self-introspection, unlike the secular New Year which is markedly different in its celebration. We were taught that we are judged and forgiven by God during the ten days from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. Even today, I try to take this period to quietly take stock of my actions of the previous year and identify hopes for the upcoming one.

Over the past few months, as both my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter stream have been rife with negative judgments about current events from all sides, I kept wishing for a rise in empathy. Read…


I Have Never Seen the Video of the Planes Crashing Into the Twin Towers

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That’s right.

I haven’t seen the video of the planes crashing into the towers. Nor have I seen the video of desperate people in the towers jumping out their windows. I don’t believe I have seen the video of the towers crashing down either.

On 9/11/01 I was in yeshiva. (See: 9/11 Reflections) I had no access to TV or the Internet. My entire perception of the events was completely formed by what I heard on the radio and what I saw in the newspaper.

But I could have looked it up on youtube or seen it on any of the news channels if I really wanted to. I guess I didn’t. Read…


My Favorite Post 9|11 Photo

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This photo has been sitting on my desktop since 9|11 2010. I had been saving it for today.

I love this photo. To me, it exemplifies the perfect and most appropriate reaction to tragedy. In place of the Twin Towers destroyed by evil, are two beams of light soaring high into the night.

The physical towers are gone. But their light, their non-physical presence lives on. The edifice lives on and the people live on. Perhaps most importantly, what they stood for lives on.

Light also perfectly embodies what those towers stood for. Light shows the way. Light illuminates. Light is good. The American society that the terrorists abhorred was the America of progress, modernity, diversity and goodness. The terror is darkness. It only works when it cannot be detected until it is too late.

The light of the Twin Towers and America lives on.


Personalizing 9|11

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There are seemingly infinite ways to commemorate 9|11.

I plan several posts over the weekend to express my feelings, memories and hope for this important day in American history.

The first of these posts illustrates to me that 9|11 really has two components. The national component and the personal. On a national level we were thrust into mourning and war. It is a war that does not seem likely to end anytime soon. Every day without a terrorist attack is a day that we have won that war. But that war also carries a very significant price tag. Lives, dollars, foreign relations and other corners of life have suffered. In the end, we can only hope the sacrifices are worthwhile.

The more compelling component, that is less widely discussed is the personal component. By personal, I mean the effects of the tragedy on individuals and their subsequent stories of survival, rebuilding and healing.

The nexus of the national and personal stories is found in the media. The media is in a position to nationalize the personal stories. I find the various ways of expressing these stories absolutely fascinating.

I have chosen 4 different media outlets to illustrate this. Read…


Controversial Ads Against Cordoba Center Are Ironic

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The MTA has approved a pretty powerful anti-Cordoba Center ad.

Here is the ad:

I find the ad obscene. It is provocative, misleading and presumptuous all in one.

However, as much as the ICC has a right to exist, this ad has a right to exist as well. The same laws that protect the ICC, protect this obscene ad. (Note: If the ad was so incendiary as to cause violence it would NOT be protected by the constitution, in which case it would lose my meaningless approval as well)

The irony is that the folks behind the ad can hide behind the 1st Amendment but would deny the same rights to the Cordoba Center.