High Holiday season is always a stressful time for Rabbis, but the word “stressful” usually describes how they feel about their sermons, the High Holiday appeal, the synagogue’s financial situation, the latest pow-wow the Rabbi got into with the president of the board, those sort of things. But this year, a group of Rabbis is taking their stress-coping strategies to a new level and teaching congregants how to beat up terrorists that may otherwise infiltrate a group of Yom Kippur worshippers and harm them.
The group is called the International Security Coalition of Clergy, founded by Rabbi Gary Moscowitz. Yes, he’s a black-belt and a former NYPD officer. In a quote that I happen to really like, he said “Jews are not like Christians. If I turn my cheek, I’m coming around to make a kick.” I second that. Nobody’s messing with me anymore.
What inspired Moscowitz to do this? It was an event last May when police discovered a terrorist organization of American Muslims planning to attack New York City synagogues.
He claims he doesn’t fear Muslims specifically, but extremists in general. “We’re just worried about the safety of the houses of worship that are being threatened with rhetoric on regular basis and extremism,” Moscowitz said.
His course is a 100 hour martial arts course that will hopefully turn Jewish worshippers into lethal weapons that defend their houses of prayer. Or something of the sort. At the beginning, nobody took him seriously, but he was just interviewed on Fox News and there’s even a video on Foxnews.com about him.
The course teaches rabbis and synagogue-goers how to take down a terrorist who succeeds in entering the houses of worship, use tables as means of defense against gunfire, and to pull out a handgun while performing a flip.
“A terrorist could put a yarmulke on, say, ‘Happy holidays,’ and blow the place up,” he warns. That’s why he’s not relying only on the police.
It’s dimming earlier these days; wind is getting stronger. Yes, it’s autumn again, and the air conditioner is no longer a man’s best friend.
In short, a new year is upon us, and I want to wish you all a Shana Tova (Happy new year) and Gmar Chatima Tova (May you be inscribed in the book of life)!
We have much to lose and much to gain. Emotions are running high, and I think that’s a good thing — We are finally stepping out of our long-embedded apathy. The world is changing before our eyes, and in this Internet-entwined culture of ours, the man in the street has never been so influential before.
Take care and enjoy this holiday season!
Wait! I can’t have surgery here! I’m in a foreign land! I don’t know anybody here! But as the doctors pointed out, I was at no state to fly anywhere. I had to be strong and overcome this whole situation. The only thought I had was: It’s a good thing I bought insurance policy before I left for the trip. I was operated later that day. The date: Yom Kippur.
October 4, 2006
This week, as I was celebrating my one year surgery anniversary, something struck me; not even once, throughout the past year, I did connect between these events to the time they occurred. I was laying in the hospital sick on Yom Kippur, and not even once I did think I was being punished for things I had done. A sign from god? That thought never crossed my mind. I started wondering: Is there something wrong with me? Am I not Jewish enough?
I have to confess. I’m not a big believer. I never fast on Yom Kippur. I don’t believe that fasting will remedy your sins; only your changed actions can do that. But Yom Kippur is also a day of thinking and self examining.
The week I spent at the hospital last year was incredible and unperceivable. During that week, I found long lost family relatives that lived in San JosÃ© and helped me out so much! I learned to realize what a great friend I had â€“ she didn’t leave my bedside the whole week! I discovered my parents will fly to the end of the world if I need them to! I learned that life is unpredictable! And most of all, I discovered things about myself: I’m independent, I do not panic in stress situations and I’m surrounded by many people who care about me.
And for me, thatâ€™s the meaning of Yom Kippur â€“ a quiet day, when you can enjoy some quality time with your family, relax and reflect on the passing year. Hopefully realizing at the end how lucky you are and appreciating more of yourself, your family and friends and your life.
The following events happened around Yom Kippur a year agoâ€¦
October 12, 2005
After a 10 hour bus ride, we (a friend and I) arrived at San JosÃ©, the capital city of Costa Rica. We had a week before concluding our trip to Central America and we planned it out so we’ll make the most out of it.
First stop â€“ the Jewish Community Center. The center was surrounded by high walls and was guarded by tough security and it was quite a task to get in. What an amazing place! Brand new, with beautiful art work and a giant beit kneset (synagogue). It was great to see how this small community was able to cherish and preserve its Jewish identity.
Since it was getting late, we decided to find a nice hostel and continue our trip the following day. Early next morning, we got on a cranky bus heading to La Fortuna, a small town set on the outskirts of Volcan Arenal. It was a long and bumpy drive, so not surprisingly, I felt bad afterwards. Since I was sure I was just a bit hydrated, I didn’t take the whole matter seriously.
That night, our hostel owner took us to watch Volcan Arenal erupting. And what a view it was! This volcano erupts 24 hours a day! You can actually see the lava burst out of the crater and tumble down the mountain.
When I woke up the next day, I was still feeling bad, really bad. On a short Internet chat with my parents, my dad said sarcastically: â€œHere’s a present from us for the approaching Yom Kippur â€“ go see a doctor!â€
One thing I learned throughout my life is to listen to my parents’ advice. So off I went to see the doctor in the local clinic. The next thing I knew, I was on my way to the hospital in San JosÃ©. The prognosis: appendicitis.
To be continuedâ€¦