Silence of the Goats

Once upon a time, there was a goat. His name was Flavian. He wasn’t named after anyone. His mother liked the name. His mother was, by any measure, insane. Even for a goat. Flavian was born with only one horn. It may seem trivial, but a goat needs two horns. One on each side. Without a left horn, Flavian was vulnerable. The other goats could goad with impunity. An approach on the left side was without recourse. Flavian could not defend himself. And, he paid a heavy price. They called him “Half.” But, goats have no silent letters, so it was pronounced “haaaaal-phhh.” Stupid goats. They cannot even insult properly.

Flavian was on vacation and met a girl. Actually, a female goat. He was instantly smitten. Her name was, coincidentally, also Flavian. It turns out, goat names are gender unspecific. Another thing about goats? They show affection by playfully butting heads. Flavian, the female, wanted to make a spectacular first impression. So, she caught Flavian, our hero, unawares and, stealthily approaching from the west, lowered her head, and rammed him where the sun shone. The resulting head-wound was catastrophic. As he lay on the ground, Flavian wondered why love hurt so much worse than hate.

For the next 5 years, as he recovered, Flavian did not see Flavian. She never took vacation. And, even if she had, she did not know where he lived. His wound healed but left a painful mark. If goats had not stared before the accident, the scar ensured that his deformity would never again escape attention.

Flavian was not amused that some humans describe Tom Brady as the Greatest Of All Time. He thought, how can being a GOAT possibly do justice to greatness?

One time, Flavian was watching Forrest Gump. He did not like the film. He could not understand any of the historical references but was outraged at Forrest. He spent his entire life chasing Jenny who, at every phase of her life, found contemporaneous ways to hurt him. Jenny was the villain, as far as Flavian was concerned. He hated her. And he hated Forrest for not hating her. But, Flavian did not understand that Jenny was damaged too. The nuance of her childhood scars – and their lasting impact on her personal relationships – was lost on the goat. Flavian’s father, no expert on the subject, found it ironic that Flavian’s disdain for another broken creature was sourced in his own childhood trauma.

But, here is what most troubled Flavian for all the days of his life. When humans would come to the farm and see the lambs grazing next to Flavian’s pen. Inevitably, some blowhard father would call them “sacrificial lambs,” and laugh until one of his children would take the bait and inquire. “A sacrificial lamb,” blowhard would explain, “comes from the bible. The high priest would place a sign on the lamb – – identifying him as a sacrifice for the sins of the community – – and then throw him off a cliff. In this way, human faults, sins, and crimes, were forgiven.” The children would react in horror and then it was usually time to leave. The goats were almost always the victims of the shortened visit.

But, the bible doesn’t talk about “sacrificial lambs.” They were sacrificial goats. Lambs had nothing to do with the story. Flavian did not know when in history this vernacular injustice was perpetrated. Or why. But his ancestors were sent to their most horrible deaths for the benefit of humankind, and it was the lambs who got all the credit. Flavian wanted to write a book about it and call it “The Silence of the Goats.” But, he did not know how to write. Also, beyond the clever title, he was not sure what he wanted to say. He was just angry. Always. And, he never ever spoke to a single lamb in his entire life. He did not even talk to any sheep because he was not 100% sure if they are the same animal.

I mention all of this because Flavian died on Christmas. They say it was natural causes. He was 17, after all, which is pretty old for a goat. His death was not tragic; his life was. His last thought was about Flavian. He was certain that he outlived her and then chuckled when he realized that she had left a far greater mark on him than he had on her.

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Bruce Almighty

Last Saturday, I was in temple and came across my friend Bruce. I hadn’t seen him for a while because we’ve taken, of late, to attending different services.   I asked him how he was doing.  He smiled, like he always does, in lieu of an answer.  It wasn’t polite or evasive.  It was his answer.  It said: “what could be wrong?”   It was the same smile he gave me when I knew he wasn’t so great.  When the weight of a world that he carried upon his shoulders seemed too great to bare.  Even then, “what could be wrong?”   A smile that spoke volumes.

He asked, as he always did, how I was doing.   I wasn’t in the mood for prevarication.  It was too early in the day and too late in the movie.

“Honestly, not so great.”   He dug a little deeper and I instantly regretted opening a conversation that belonged neither then nor there.  I pivoted and just like that, we moved on to other topics.   I was instantly cheered by his outlook and world-view.   Many years ago, while discussing the well-being of a common friend, I asked him whether he was the sort of guy who saw the proverbial cup as half-empty or half-full.  He said:  I see it as full.   I protested. That was not one of the options.  He said, and I’ll never forget this:  “why not?  If we are talking about perspective, it should always be an option.” That was Bruce.

Later that night, I got a call.  Bruce.  “What’s wrong,” he wanted to know.  It was too complicated to explain.  He persisted.  I demurred.  He told me he was going out of town but upon his return, he’d get to the bottom of it.    “Let’s plan a dinner.”    I acquiesced.   Just to avoid any further discomfort.

He died 5 days later.

I’ve never met anyone like him.  Growing up, I was indoctrinated with stories of ancient divine messengers who appeared on earth as mortal men.   They performed some unimaginable act of kindness then disappeared. I never bought into it.

Until I met Bruce Weinrib.

Suddenly, every apocrypha seemed possible. A sweet man, raised from the ashes of the Holocaust.  Like he had a mission to cure the world.  No matter the cost.

I am blessed to live in a community that comes together at the faintest breeze of despair.  Most are willing to sacrifice of themselves to shoulder the burden of those in need.   Some ask nothing in return except the quiet admiration of their peers.   I say that without snark.  I really don’t care why you’re motivated.  Your ledger records your actions, not your motivation.   But, Bruce, if he had a defining characteristic, it was his adamant insistence on anonymity.  He cared not a single iota about his personal standing, often allowing others to accept the credit for his good works.  His measure of self-worth lay not in his standing among others but in the success of those around him.

16 years ago, we accepted an invitation to break Shabbat bread at his house.   We barely knew him.  I was apprehensive.  What would we talk about?   Nary 5 minutes into the meal when he popped the question.  “Tell us about some of the more interesting lawsuits you are working on.”   His children stared like they cared.  I stuttered because I’m not used to people actually asking about my life.   My pithy answers apparently did not satisfy, so, he took matters into his own hands.    With the active participation of his children, he kicked off a round-table by raising ethical and philosophical issues implicated by the brief set of facts I disclosed.   He understood the law, and its human impact, in a way that challenged my arrogant perception of the cases I was handling.   In minutes, he isolated considerations that I had never considered.  That my bosses overlooked.   Without exaggeration, it changed the way I looked at those cases.  And, every one since.

How do you repay someone who literally changed the way you think?  Who, without pretense, taught me that every decision, every strategy, every act or omission, impacts other people’s lives.  Even when the connection may be elusive, it’s there.  For anyone who cares to look for it.

For me, it was transformational.  For Bruce?  Another day in paradise.   When we left, I thanked him.  I teared up and then felt silly.  He just smiled.  “What could be wrong?”

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Adolf Hitler never visited a single concentration camp.   There is no historical evidence that he personally ever killed a single Jew.  And, there exists not a single written order from him implementing the “final solution.”  And, yet, he is the symbol par excellence of the destruction of the Holocaust.   He rightly gets the credit for the murder of 10 million people, even though the very worst of the atrocities were committed by regular citizens.   Neighbors.  Teenagers.  Whole communities.  Soldiers. Lawyers, Doctors.  You name it.

The sociological explanation for this phenomenon is beyond the scope of this piece.  Except to say, Hitler created the environment of hatred and anti-Semitism.    By espousing and spreading the notion that Jews were the root cause of the many trials and tribulations the German nation faced in the 1920s and 1930s,  the stage was set.   Vilify, accuse, attack, and defame a people often enough,  the toxic conditions become inevitable.   With its economy, reputation, world-standing, armed forces, culture, and living conditions in shambles,  Hitler handed his people an easy target.  He put the gun in their hand and pointed it for them.

Old news, you say?  Maybe not.

Try moving to Mahwah, New Jersey.  Its God’s country.  Rolling hills, beautiful parks,  a good school system, bucolic homes on green acres, a nice shopping district.    If it seems like utopia, check your side-locks at the door.   You see, in recent weeks,  Mahwah has  adopted three, seemingly unconnected ordinances with familiar themes.  First, the township has outlawed the placement of small PVC pipes on certain utility poles, in violation of an existing ordinance that prohibits the placement of “signs” on public utility poles.     I could not understand how a PVC pipe could be proscribed by the ordinance but, just to be sure, I went back and listened to the 1971 song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band and there was no mention of Pipes – – PVC or otherwise.   Merriam Webster defines “sign” as

a: a motion or gesture by which a thought is expressed or a command or wish made known; b: signal  c: a fundamental linguistic unit that designates an object or relation or has a purely syntactic function signs include words, morphemes, and punctuation d: one of a set of gestures used to represent language;

Clearly, the PVC pipes are not signs.  So, what’s the deal?    The pipes are used by observant orthodox Jews to create a fictional “community” within which they can carry objects or stroll their children on the Sabbath.   It’s called an eruv and the only impact of the PVC pipes is that Jews passing through or living in Mahwah, can take their children outside on Saturday.    There is sometimes a consequential result:   Jews who follow those rules may decide to move into a community with an Eruv.

But a community group has formed,  #Mahwahstrong, and hundreds have joined and regularly attend council meetings.    The issue of removing the PVC pipes (and the tenuous claim that it “has nothing to do with the Jews”)  has attracted 2000% more protestors at council meetings than tax hikes,  reduced services,  the construction of a mall, etc.   All because the PVC pipes are signs and therefore must be stopped.

Not convinced?   Consider the second ordinance, whereby Mahwah sought to exclude “New Yorkers” from using township parks, if it would interfere with the enjoyment of local residents.   Not all New Yorkers, wrote the town Council president.   If out-of-town grandmothers wish to visit, no worries.  Hmm.  Who, therefore, does the ordinance target and how could it be enforced?   Tough to say, but a lot of orthodox Jews use the park on Sundays.    The police chief complained that the inconsistent enforcement (i.e. targeting Jews) may be unlawful.   The council ignored his pleas, so he sought advice from the county prosecutor, who opined that the ordinance should not be enforced as it will almost certainly lead to discrimination.

Still unsure?  The third ordinance prohibits out-of-towners from knocking on the doors of residents without permission.   Seems reasonable. Except it was adopted because of rumors that orthodox Jews had been going door-to-door to see if any houses were for sale.   The ordinance would surely prevent that practice.

To their credit, most Mahwahnians do not try to hide their xenophobia.  They readily admit that they do not want “those people” moving into town and “ruining” their public school systems.    The bizarre claim fails to acknowledge that orthodox Jewish residents pay the same taxes as everyone else in town, but typically send their children to private school.  In other words,  “those people” fund a significant percentage of the public school system, with nary a benefit.   Sounds awful.   But, consider this:   Fair Lawn, with its Eruv and huge orthodox population,  ranks 46th in the annual ranking of hundreds of New Jersey school districts.    Paramus 42.   Highland Park comes in at 40.  Tenafly is 15th – – even after losing its legal battle to prevent its eruv.    East Brunswick is 13!  Livingston lands at number 9.   And, Princeton?   Number 1.   The eruvs in those communities did not seem to impact their public school systems.    Mahwah, by the way, lands at 60 – – behind at least 10 districts with eruvs.

But, put all that aside.  Is there any community, any race, any religion, any creed targeted by  such ordinances that would not attract the outrage of celebrities,  the media, politicians,  liberal activists,  regular activists,  Rev. Al,  Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi?  If a township passed ordinances to exclude minorities,  LGBT,  immigrants,  Christians, Muslims,  it would land on the front page until it was defeated.

But, with very minor exceptions,  no one is talking about the Mahwah brouhaha.    It’s troubling but not surprising.

Jews were among the first and most vocal supporters of the Civil Rights Acts, and Martin Luther King, Jr.    Google any injustice perpetrated against the African American community, and you will find Jews, and Jewish organizations at the front of the fight.    Yet, attend any “Black Lives Matter” rally and breathe in the visual hatred expressed against Jews.    Israel is the most progressive, liberal, and supportive nation in the world for LGBT rights, but any reference to Israel was barred from a recent LGBT march in Chicago.   No such prohibition against displaying support for countries who throw gays off roofs,  force sterilization, and criminally  ban any LGBT activity.  As long as there are no “Stars of David,” which organizers found offensive.   And, by the same token,  Israel has some of the strongest laws against rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.  Its former president is in jail for violating those laws!   That didn’t stop organizers from Chicago’s “slut Walk” from excluded any displays that relate to Israel or Jews.

It’s funny.  My Facebook feed is routinely filled with outrage from my Jewish friends,  the Jewish Media (or, should I just say “media”),  Jewish activists, and Jewish organizations whenever an injustice is perpetrated on any group – – including Muslims and Arabs.    In addition to our own history which compels us to speak out,  the theory goes,  if we don’t speak out for others, who will speak out for us?    I guess we’ll see.

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I Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

388490_117139495071579_1297849374_n    Amanda is graduating High School next week.   She’s the oldest of three and her parents could not be more proud.  But, especially her father. What is it about fathers and daughters?   Anyway, her parents are making special arrangements to make sure they do not miss the big day.   They will be sitting in the front row, wiping away tears, and applauding their little girl, along with all the other moms and dads.   If this seems unexceptional, consider that Amanda’s father is Phil Mickelson, one of the greatest professional golfers of all time, and he will be missing the U.S. Open to attend his daughter’s graduation.     Phil has won 5 major championships but the US Open title has always eluded him.   This was potentially his last best chance.   If you believe him,  it was not even a close call; nothing would keep him from watching his daughter accept her diploma.

I believe him.

You see, my little girl is also graduating high school.   This week.  Then, a quick summer job and she’s off.   A gap year abroad.   Then college.  Then the world.


This isn’t my first rodeo.  (see,  But, I find myself utterly unprepared for this moment.    I find myself thinking about the precious, fragile, squeaky little lady who entered the world with barely a contraction and then grew up to captain her high school hockey team.  Benny was always my little buddy.   But, Hannah was my princess.  It wasn’t just a pet name.   It defines our relationship.   I treasured her successes more than my own.   I cried at her heartbreak.  I counted every goal she scored and beamed at every report card.

Hannah is unlike my other children – – or most children I know.   Dissatisfied with her grammar school grades, she took it personally.   Yada yada,  4 years later she is accepted to every college to which she applied.   All top tier institutions.    She was a bit of a goal-hang in grade school hockey but the fire burned in her eyes.  4 years later she owns two championship rings – – scoring the winning goals in both games.

I think about those things and sleep easy knowing that she is ready.   But, for some reason, I cannot  shake her scent.  I mean that literally.  I smell her everywhere I go these days.   Her perfume.  Her soap.  Her hockey jersey.  Her pillow.  Like she’s standing next to me.

It’s not sugar or spice.  It’s not everything nice.   I now know that this is a lie, perpetuated by Robert Southey in 1826.   It’s a blend of 18 years’ worth of sweat and tears.  It’s pride and kindness.  It’s self-worth and self-doubt.  It’s boundless energy with a pinch of fear.  It’s the sweet smell of a lifetime of  successes.  And the stink of failures, left in the rearview mirror in pursuit of the next adventure.  It’s love.  A whole lotta love.   You think those things don’t leave a scent?  Please, stop and take a whiff of your children.  Store the memory deep within the recesses of your brain.   Because you will be searching time and again for that smell.   And, before you know it,  it will be gone.

Have no fear, Princess.  You got this.   By this, I mean life.   Keep fighting for yourself.  For your friends and family.  For your people.  For the things that matter to you.  More than most, you have everything you need for Phase 2.

You made us proud.  Now go.  Before I change my mind.

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A Little Help from My Friends

Its college acceptance season.  For some, the mail will bring life-changing news crediting a lifetime of hard work and personal discipline.  For others, the reach proved unreachable and the disappointment is heart breaking.   For all, it’s a nerve-wracking, nail-biting, sleep-losing process.   And, for parents, it’s the first of many of their children’s milestones that are beyond their control.  Or, is it?  Turns out, not always.

Students with special needs, learning disabilities, classifications, and IEPs receive critical and necessary support.  Often, this means examinations are administered in separate rooms with extended or even unlimited time to complete the test.   For most students in high school, the difference between an A or a B is less their mastery of the materials and more the time constraints designed to ensure the subject matter has not merely been learned but the ease with which the information can be summoned,  applied, and communicated.    Every thoroughbred can cross the finish line; but the most successful must do it within a challenging amount of time.

For those with special needs, the narrow allotment of time is often an unfair and prejudicial evaluation of what they have achieved and, for them, an inaccurate barometer of what they are capable of.

As an attorney who has spent a fair amount of time advocating for such students, I am the first in line to testify as to the life-changing and critically important efficacy of these programs.   It is not about those students to whom this piece is addressed.

But, imagine the improbable scenario of a student without legitimate needs, disabilities or challenges given the advantages of educational support.   Imagine two identical students, one must complete a high level physics exam in 55 minutes.  The other gets 2 hours.  Maybe one is given access to the examination in advance.   Imagine both are placed in high honors classes and the transcripts do not reflect the advantages but merely recite high honor-level grades.   You are beginning to see the problem.

Improbable?  Now imagine it’s happening in schools across the nation, and consider that the better universities only accept 1 or 2 students per school.  Should the coveted spot go to the student who is scamming his way to the top of the class?

You see, one cannot merely announce a special need or learning disability in order to take full advantage of the support available.   As you would expect, it requires professional analysis and a medical diagnosis.  It requires independent and verifiable proof that the need exists.  Which is why almost all cases of educational support are valid and legitimate.  It would take a particularly crowded bank account, an ethically challenged parent, and an even more ethically challenged healthcare professional to conspire to pull this off.   But it’s possible.  And, make no mistake, it’s happening.

Is this easy to prove? Or prevent?  No.  Certainly not without rigorous testing and multiple second-opinions.   And, that would be unfair and cost prohibitive to the overwhelming  majority of families who have legitimate needs and use the system fairly and with compassion.

Some have suggested that students with classifications should simply not be permitted to join high honors classes, which might de-incentivize the practice.  But, I am not sure that’s fair or even legal.  And, I am not sure it would de-incentivize the practice.    Others have suggested a second level of inquiry where there is suspicion of abuse by consensus of educators.   That might work.  But it raises other complications.

The solution to a complicated problem is beyond the scope of this piece and may be elusive in the short term.    But, there are a growing number of parents who are rightfully outraged.   The solution will come when enough people demand it.     I hope that day is nearing.

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Political Payback

I forgot to be upset today. Even with the hundreds of consolation emails, voicemails, text messages, and grim shrugs. I lost the election. But, I cannot summon any regret, sadness, or melancholy. Au contraire. I am in a great mood, full of hope, appreciation, and happiness. Here’s why: the world did not end. Not my world. It did not even bend. New Milford will survive and prosper. I have work to get back to and children to continue to raise. I am catching a flight in few hours to Los Angeles with my best friend and soulmate.

There were over 12,000 individual votes cast for these two seats. I lost by about 160. That was my sweet spot. Less, and I surely would have lost sleep wondering what I could have done differently. More, and I would have given in to paranoia. You see, there are thousands of voters who have no idea who I am. There are only so many doors upon which one can knock. For most, the first time they ever saw my name was in the voting booth. And, how many times have I skipped over unfamiliar, if not qualified, candidates for those I knew something about. Of the 6 council candidates, I was the least known by far. Against those odds, I did my daddy proud.

But, there is more to celebrate. This was, in my view, the most civil, respectful, and amiable election that I can remember. (With a few ugly exceptions). It’s a credit to all the candidates and most of their enthusiastic supporters. I promised to restore civility. And, while I do not and cannot take any credit for the tone of the campaign, I am proud to have been part of it. I hope it continues with the new council. I think it will.

We have some issues in town that need some attention. Nothing cataclysmic or catastrophic. Nothing that good people, with good hearts, great minds, and mutual respect cannot tackle. If they can, I am content to sit out. If they can’t, I am happy to try again someday. It’s all good.

The rub, of course, is the amazing people I have met along this journey. Every door, every address. Supporters and not so much. We have a great town, filled with the most amazing people. Everyone I met was kind, friendly, interested, and interesting. (With a few ugly exceptions). Abraham Lincoln once said that “the true measure of a town’s greatness can be found in its citizenry.” He didn’t actually, but he should have because it’s true. Politicians come and go. But the character of this town is imbedded in its DNA.

That reminds me of a few examples. Mike Putrino, my campaign manager, is about the nicest, most sincere guy I have ever met. I cannot wait for his return to politics. Randi Duffie cares more about New Milford than almost anyone I know. She is kind and selfless and willing to do just about anything to help. She was, is, and will be among the giants of our council. Ira Grotsky is a cutie. Humble to a fault, but sharp as a tack, he will literally transform the council next year, and the dividends of his election will be immediate.

Diego and Dominic have worked tirelessly for the last 6 years for New Milford. We can, and almost surely will, disagree on various obstacles and their cure. We can stand on opposite sides of an issue. But, no one should ever question their motives or their love for this town. We agree on far more than we don’t.

I’d have seriously considered voting for Kelly. She’s smart and exhausting. But, she is on the first K of this marathon and she already has the tools to be a first-ballot Council Hall of Famer. She is strong enough to break the long cycle of partisanship and cabalistic rule. If she does, she’ll have my vote for reelection.

And, all the rest. The people, and you know who you are, who made this trip so much fun! It was exhilarating and rewarding. I saw my side of town rally around me in a way that I will never forget. I saw my wife and children laugh with me (and, often, at me), but I knew they were behind me all the way. I saw long standing Republicans support me (some very quietly). I made new friends. Lost weight. I found respect hidden in plain sight all over town. Yes, there were jerks. There always are. But, the payback is that they will continue to be jerks long after this election is forgotten. Heck, even the jerks were entertaining.

So, you see, there is much to celebrate today; little to despair. For the thousands of people who read this blog (apparently, not too many of them in New Milford), you know I am never shy and rarely hesitant to speak my mind. The journey exceeded the destination. Rarely is that more true than today.

Thanks for the adventure.

By the way, who won the presidential election?

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An Open Letter to David Weisbrot

I’ve got a lot on my mind these days.  Between a major trial, college admissions, school and zoning boards, back surgeries, and the municipal election, I am not getting much sleep.  But, there is one place to where my thoughts keep meandering.

My father.

I cannot help but think he’d be proud that I am running for my township Council.   Yes, he was a staunch democrat, so he’d like that I am running as one – – even though we certainly disagreed politically over the years.  He’d get a kick out of the lawn signs, the articles, the endorsements, the letters to the editor, the candidate forums, canvassing, door hangers, and campaigning.   He’d root for a win but in his heart, I know he’d be just as proud win or lose.

My dad had two defining characteristics:  he was about the nicest, most civil man you would ever meet and he devoted his life to helping others.

He can’t be with me physically but I feel his presence looming large every step of the way.  It was he who taught me that, regardless of party affiliation, there should be no ideological differences at the local level.    He was often frustrated at the political divide in local politics because he saw it as a gimmick.  You cannot distinguish yourself because you want to lower taxes or improve services – – everyone wants that.  So, you need to create an artificial distinction and that usually means partisan pugilistics.   And, once the battle lines are drawn, its them or us.  There is no direction from there except down.

I wish I had 5 more minutes with him this week.  Because I know what his counsel would be:  As long as you are campaigning with respect and civility, it doesn’t matter if you win.  You will sleep better losing with compassion and integrity, than winning through dirt and deception.   I would proudly tell him that I had all the candidates to my house for a social dinner.  That I have met with other leading local republicans to talk about the issues.  I avoided, at all costs, attacks, hostility, and slander.  When an opponent was attacked, I was the first to condemn and disavow the incivility.  When I was the target of a healthy dose of smearage myself, I declined to respond in kind, choosing instead to change the conversation to more productive matters.

Finally, he’d like my agenda.   I won’t repeat it here except to say that my entire platform is built around helping my neighbors.   From fixing playing fields and roads, to stabilizing out-of-control taxes, and reducing a crippling debt.    He’d like that.  But, above all, he’d like that I am being honest.  I have not hidden behind the platform of others.  I have not avoided outlining my personal opinions.  And, I have never, not once, tried to mislead or deceive.

I hope I have made him proud in the years since he died.  Not through my accomplishments or successes.  But, by incorporating his essential and foundational decency into my every endeavor.

Thanks Dad. I miss you.

** I am not David Weisbrot, but I think he would approve of this message

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Temple Of Doom

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution today declaring no historical relationship between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  The Temple Mount, so named because of its long-standing relationship to Temple University in Philadelphia, is now, according to UNESCO, exclusively a Muslim holy site.  Brushing aside the Old Testament, New Testament, the Quran, and Roman Emperor Titus, UNESCO argued “those are very old sources that have been completely repudiated by UNESCO chair, Iran.  These are Jewish propaganda documents that cannot be independently verified.”

UNESCO voter, Lebanon, added “does anyone seriously believe that Moses split the Red Sea?  C’mon. It’s obvious that most of the biblical stories about the Jews are false.”

Egypt, voting for the resolution, added that “we surveyed top scholars from Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and ISIS, as well as several Iranian Nobel Prize winners, and they were unanimous in their opinion that the Jews have never even been to the Temple Mount.”

Now that it has dealt with its top agenda item, UNESCO plans on debating the question of whether Jews have any historical relationship to Planet Earth.  Acknowledging that many Jews were “probably” born on the planet,  there simply is not enough evidence to reach any conclusive determination.  Qatar, in explaining the agenda, stated “Look, we deal in historical and scientific fact, not speculation.  Even if we assume that Jews are, in fact, human, they could easily have been born on another planet.  Show me any proof that they are earthlings.”

Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump weighed in on the decision. “The Jews tried to grab the Temple Mount, and f**k the Muslims.   I generally find that sort of behavior unacceptable.”

For her part, Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton declined to comment, choosing to wait until she could float a quick poll before announcing her position.

Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, responded simply “What’s Jerusalem?”

UNESCO’s resolution, according to member Morocco, is important because of all the issues facing the Middle East right now, the claims to the Temple Mount are clearly the most pressing.  If there is enough time in this year’s session, “we absolutely hope to discuss the destruction of historical sites by ISIS and the Taliban.”   Syria, not currently a member of UNESCO, was unavailable for comment but promised to issue a statement after today’s chemical weapon attack.  “We have a lot on our plate right now, but we applaud our Muslim brothers for taking decisive action.”

Saudi Arabia, also not a UNESCO member, but a vocal member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was in favor of the resolution, but expressed “concern” that some of the UNESCO votes were cast by women.

Still no comment from the “Israeli” government but an unusual joint statement from its Muslim Supreme Court justices, Muslim Army Generals, Muslim Parliament members (including its Speaker of the house), Muslim Ms. Israel, Muslim top businessmen, and Muslim star soccer players, decried the Jewish claims to the Temple Mount. “Israel is an apartheid state where Muslims are treated as second class citizens deprived of basic human rights and access to the most basic opportunities.”

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Give Me A Break

Here’s a name to remember: Wilhem Belocian. He’s a French sprinter. He spent his entire life training for the 110 meter hurdle. He skipped women, school, booze, life. He was singularly focused. He was literally one in a million. But, he made it. He qualified. The grueling schedule. The stunted social development. Missed opportunities. Lives lost. It paid off. He was in the Olympics. On August 15, his parents, friends, enemies all tuned in. They knew this guy! His heart was racing. All of his sacrifices, dreams, and inspiration came down to this: he was on a stage that most would kill to occupy. Ready [is she watching?] Set [here comes the gold!] Go! [Huh? What’s the announcer saying?] False start. Wilhem is disqualified. He is out of the Olympics.

And, just like that, Wilhem was on a plane home. Check out the video. You won’t see the imperceptible off-sides. Even if you do, you will be hard pressed to justify his harsh, cruel fate. This guy will not be in Tokyo in 2020. His whole life reduced to a millisecond of anticipation. His entire career lasted exactly 1.7 seconds.

It got me thinking. We have become a society that demands a second chance. We raise our children to believe that everyone gets a medal. 10 teams in the league? Let’s have a 10-team playoff. Tonya Harding’s skate was loose? Start again. Gore lost the election? Re-count. Good is no longer good enough. But, fear not, everyone gets a mulligan.

So what’s the problem? This: It’s not realistic. Life does not give second chances. First impressions rule!! Bad first interview? You’re done. Awkward first date? It’s going to be a cold, lonely winter.

Here’s what you’re thinking right now: I like his concept, but what is his point?

I want a second chance. At everything. You know me. I say the wrong things. I make poor decisions. I jump the gun – – even if the tape is inconclusive. But, I don’t want to go home. I have trained too long. Ran too hard. I want my kids to be inspired by the effort not the result. There should be points for trying. Medals for wanting it. Credit for heart and hunger. Not the gold medal. Duh, that’s for the winners. But, maybe, just a heart. Not the sacred purple ones reserved for soldiers injured in the line of duty. But a complicated red one for the people just trying their very best and coming up short. Whenever you see someone with a red heart in their chest, you’ll know they tried their best, even if they fell short. You’ll understand that what you see is not often what you get. You will sympathize with their unknown secrets and travails. You will root for a second chance. Not because they deserve it. But because you do.

Its been a good year. We did not post much, so no one cared. But, our last 3 blogs were read by over 180,000 people. In December, we will post an award from WordPress!! So, please pass this around. Share it. Like it. Subscribe to it.

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The East of my Youth and the West of my Future

I don’t have a bucket list.   It’s not that I don’t expect to die; I just don’t have time to put one together, let alone implement it.   But, if I had a list, you can now cross off what would be the number one entry.   I have visited all 50 United States.  It took almost 50 years and was never an official plan until I woke up one day and realized I had already seen more than 40.   But as I crossed into Oregon this week, it happened.

I don’t know why it matters.  But it does.   My father inculcated in me a love of the road that only expanded as I raised my own children to the edge of adulthood.  It took on a life of its own that far outpaced the adventurous spirit upon which it is bedrocked.

And, it’s been a good run.   Skiing with Stats in Utah and Colorado.    Cross country with Shoshana in Oklahoma City.  Vegas with Gronk, and Yo.   Courtrooms in Atlanta,  Cedar Rapids,  Miami,  Fargo,   Hartford,  and Seattle.   LA with Elisha.   My honeymoon in Hawaii, and its 20th anniversary in Alaska.    12 visits to Bentonville over 9 years.   Orlando with David and Montana with Benny.   Dallas with Hannah.  New Orleans with Molly.  Providence with my parents.

But, without debate, the highlight has to be the 4 cross country road trips with my wife and children that brought us to more than 40 states.  From the plains of South Dakota to the wastelands of New Mexico.  From the heartland to the Badlands.  Sidestepping the Bourbon trail in Kentucky and outracing hurricane Isaac in New Orleans.  Grilling kosher steaks in South Dakota,  New Orleans, and, literally, everywhere in between.    Taking in a Cowboys’ game in Dallas, a Nationals’ game in DC, the Mariners, Blue Jays, Lakers,  Eagles, Dolphins, Seahawks, a minor league game in Albuquerque.  From my hometown of New Jersey to the hospital room in Boston that started it all.  The Statute of Liberty, Mount Rushmore,  the Grand Canyon, Route 66, Graceland,  the Smithsonian, Old Faithfull, the Kentucky Derby.  From the Mountains to the Prairie.  From sea to shining sea.

This is my American Tune.   I know there is a great big world out there.   I want to see Asia and Africa.  Australia and New Zealand.  Ireland.  Scotland.  Eastern Europe. I want to climb Kilimanjaro.  It will take a lifetime and lucky lottery numbers.  Meanwhile,  you have no idea what you’re missing in your own backyard.

I learned a lot on those road trips.  About the United States.  About history, patience,  kindness, the wild diversity and concurrent similarities between people from all backgrounds.  I’ve seen Eskimos, native Americans,   aboriginal tribes, immigrants (the legal and illegal kind).  I met millionaires, movie stars,  the homeless,  criminals, professional athletes.   The range of perspectives and cultures were as wide as the continent.   But, each has an unmistakable shared humanity.   I made a point of talking to people everywhere I went.   It was a soaring highlight.

But, mostly, I learned about myself.  And my family.   It’s a lot of hours behind the wheel.  Often alone with my thoughts.   Not alone.  My dad was with me.  He kept me company most of the time.  He explained that the special relationships that I have with my brother and sister were forged in the backseat of our Chevrolet a lifetime ago during beta versions of these same trips.  Josh and Miriam are the best friends I have.   And, I see those same roots reaching across my minivan and strapping themselves to my own children.

The world has become unrecognizable to its 1970s self. Children no longer have the attention span or wanderlust for prolonged unplugged family time.  Parents just don’t have the time,  burning both ends of the candle to keep up with the supersonic speeds of 21st century materialism and technology.   I am not one of those who mourns the death of a more “simpler time.”  Who sees the future as tragic.    But, there is something to be said about a week on the road without cell phones or Netflix.   Experiencing the wonders of nature and the monuments of man through the eyes of the only people in the world who matter.    Invariably, you return home but always a little smarter, calmer, inspired, and determined.

We don’t need to make America great again.  We just need to get to know it a little better.


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