Dear friends,

As a matter of long-standing tradition, we leave politics out of our dinner conversations, and understanding the gap between our political positions, this has generally been a good policy.

I am, as the majority of my fellow Americans of Cuban descent or origin tend to be, a staunch Republican, and you are, as the overwhelming majority of American Jews tend to be, staunch Democrats, so this understanding and mutual respect for our rights to each hold our independent opinions has allowed for good conversations over good food, centered around updates on our children’s activities, news about family and mutual friends, and all those other topics that make good times spent with good friends, something to look forward to and cherish for years, and the unspoken decision to avoid those things that would divide us a good thing.

I am sorry, but I am going to have to broach our forbidden subject; I need to speak to you about the upcoming election.

Before you stop reading this, please take a second to reconsider. We have known one another for quite some time, and you know me for who and what I am…not a fanatical, obsessive demagogue, a political extremist, or even a one-issue ideologue. I am your friend before this conversation, just as I will remain your friend in its aftermath, a friend who holds some political positions considered too liberal to conservatives, and others that are, in the opinion of liberals, far too conservative in nature.

I am a guy with opinions, just like you. The fact that we can both hold our opinions, support the political Party and candidates of our choice, and still be able to share meals as friends is a testament to this country’s greatness.

The fact that you, a Democrat, and I, a Republican, have shared meals, laughter and even a tear or two along the way paints a picture that’s more real than the divided, partisan America that we see in the news so often these days.

America is great because her people are great.

This year however, things are happening that should raise an alarm in both our minds. Things of such disturbing connotations that should bring us together over a cup of coffee, and a taboo.

This year we need to discuss politics, you and I, face to face, and here is why:

“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” – Barack Obama, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations, September 25, 2012

That is a disturbing statement for an American President to make, because it is either naive and ignorant, or calculated and dangerous. The problem is that even if it’s only a naive and ignorant statement made by a well-meaning politician, that statement puts people like you, my Jewish friends and family, in mortal danger, and by extent, it puts me and mine in equal danger.

How can this President, a man who received a staggering 78% of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election, not understand that your very existence, and the existence of the State of Israel, slander the “prophet of Islam”?

Or in understanding that, how can he then publicly announce that people like you and I, Jews and Christians whose adherence to a religion other than Islam constitutes a de facto slander of Islam and its prophet, must not have title to a future?

Perhaps the callous contempt toward Israel exhibited by this President doesn’t bother you; as Americans, we should all expect, no…demand that our elected public officials act with America first and foremost in their minds. But while we all would be correct in thinking that Israel needs America, it is not untrue that through military intelligence, it is Israel that often protects America, so as Americans, we must wonder why our President would chose to stand with people who would see us destroyed, over those with whom we share such long-standing ties with.

As Ruth R. Wisse, the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University recently wrote for The Wall Street Journal:

“No citizens would seem to need a strong America more than the Jews, who are once again targeted by aggressors seeking to destroy what they cannot attain. Iran develops the bomb and threatens to annihilate the Jewish state. Fundamentalist-controlled Egypt threatens to abrogate the treaty that cost Israel the Sinai Peninsula. Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza vie over which is Israel’s more effective enemy, with the latter firing more than 400 rockets into southern Israel so far this year.”

As Americans, we all need to be concerned by the growing threat of a nuclear fundamentalist Islamist State like Iran, and as Americans we all need to realize that the security of the State of Israel is vital to the security of the people of the United States.

So, I am asking you, as a concerned friend, to think just a bit before casting your vote in this election. I am asking you, as another human being whose existence slanders Islam and its prophet by the mere act of not accepting him as a prophet of our mutual God, to reconsider your support for Barack Obama.

I am asking you to question the validity of the future not belonging to someone based on someone else’s opinions of how the future should discharge itself…ask yourself if there is a disquieting familiarity to the idea that perceived offense based on merely existing, is a justifiable reason for one group of people to take from another group any title to the future.

In that, I am not asking you to remember, I am merely asking you to not forget.

Israel is all of us, and we are all Jews in the eyes of the world’s radical Islamists.

I am not asking you to vote for any particular candidate…I don’t expect that from anyone, but I am asking you to stop, and wonder why President Obama sees the future as something that doesn’t belong to you, and I for that matter.

I am asking that for the sake of all our future generations, that this year you consider casting your vote as an American who stands by our friends in Israel, just as they have stood by us for so long.

I am asking that you consider voting for anyone other than Barack Obama.

We have six days to stand up for Israel and for our mutual future, and we all know that six days is more than enough time to beat anyone threatening our future.

Whatever happens, no matter what happens, I will be your friend, and I’ll stand with and by you.

I hope and pray that you choose to stand by me as I stand by Israel

“He who changes one person, changes the world entire.”

With so much bad going on in this world, sometimes one needs to find just one thing which reminds us that there is still good in the world.

Five young women–Gabrielle Bradbury, Elizabeth Cambers, Sabrina Coons, Megan Stewart, and Janice Underwood of Uniontown High School, Uniontown, Kansas, were encouraged by a teacher whose classroom motto is this story’s opening line, to become involved in a year-long National History Day project. The girls decided that they wanted to produce a play, or group performance about the Holocaust. So they began searching for a topic among a box of clippings handed to them by their instructor. It was among those old newspapers and magazine stories that they found Irena Sendler (Sendlerowa) in an old US News and World Report article titled “The Other Schindlers”, and the Life in a Jar Project was born.

Irena Sendler
1910 – 2008
Warsaw , Poland

During the German occupation of Poland, Irena a devout Polish Catholic, obtained a special permit from the Warsaw Epidemic Control Department to enter the Warsaw Ghetto in order to check for signs of typhus, a serious concern for the Nazis who feared that the disease would spread out beyond the ghetto. As a plumbing/sewer specialist she organized a group of co-workers who would, with the assistance of the Catholic Church eventually smuggle 2,500 Jewish children out to a network of Churches, orphanages, and private homes, saving their lives. She moved in and out of the Warsaw ghetto while wearing a Jewish Star as a sign of her solidarity with the Jewish people, and to avoid attracting attention to herself.

Irena used every method and tool available to carry out her mission of mercy, and children were moved out in ambulances and trams, others just carried out.

Some children were taken out in gunnysacks or body bags. Some were buried inside loads of goods. A mechanic took a baby out in his toolbox. Some kids were carried out in potato sacks, others were placed in coffins, some entered a church in the Ghetto which had two entrances. One entrance opened into the Ghetto, the other opened into the Aryan side of Warsaw. They entered the church as Jews and exited as Christians.

Irena kept a dog in her yard that she trained to bark any time the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto. The soldier’s attention was drawn by the barking dog, and the racket covered up any noises made by infants being smuggled out.

Irena kept a careful record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her neighbor’s back yard, ironically, the tree faced the Nazi barracks.

On October 20, 1943, Irene was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo, she was severely beaten and her legs and feet were broken, leaving her permanently crippled. She was sent to the Pawiak Prison, but they couldn’t break her spirit.

Though she was the only one who knew the names and addresses of the families sheltering the Jewish children, she withstood the torture, that crippled her for life, refusing to betray either her associates or any of the Jewish children in hiding.

Irena was sentenced to death, but escaped thanks to the Polish underground resistance, who managed to bribe a Gestapo guard. She was hunted by the Gestapo for the rest of the war, but never apprehended.

After the war, Irena returned home and dug up her jars, hoping to reunite the rescued children with their surviving parents, but most had been gassed. Those children she helped then were placed into foster family homes or adopted.

After the war ended, Irena was again persecuted, this time by the Communist government of Poland in retaliation for her relations with the Polish government in exile, and the Home Army.

“Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

In 1965, Irena was was recognized as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, and awarded the Commander’s Cross by the Israeli Institute.

Yet, Irena’s story was largely unknown, until those four young girls from Kansas found her.

Since the formation of the Life in a Jar Project during the 2000-2001 school year, the play they produced based on Irena’s life has been staged over 300 times, Irena’s life was made into a TV movie, and she has been awarded many honors:

  • In 2003, Pope John Paul II sent Sendler a personal letter praising her wartime efforts. On 10 October 2003 she received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest civilian decoration, and the Jan Karski Award “For Courage and Heart,” given by the American Center of Polish Culture in Washington, D.C. She was also awarded the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (November 7, 2001).
  • On 14 March 2007, Sendler was honored by Poland’s Senate. At age 97, she was unable to leave her nursing home to receive the honor, but she sent a statement through El?bieta Ficowska, whom Sendler had helped to save as an infant. Polish President Lech Kaczy?ski stated she “can justly be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.” On 11 April 2007, she received the Order of the Smile as the oldest recipient of the award.
  • In May 2009, Irena Sendler was posthumously granted the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award.[16] The award, named in honor of the late actress and UNICEF ambassador, is presented to persons and organizations recognised for helping children. In its citation, the Audrey Hepburn Foundation recalled Irena Sendler’s heroic efforts that saved 2,500 Jewish children during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.

In 2007, Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She lost to Al Gore, who was awarded the prize for a slide show in global warming.

A year after Irena died, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a community organizer for ACORN

True, Irena did not win the Nobel Prize, but her reward was much greater:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Irena Sendler changed not one, but thousands of people. She most certainly changed the lives of five young women from Kansas, so far removed from the brutality and the horrors of life at the Warsaw Ghetto, that the events may as well have happened on a different world, in a different galaxy. Those five young women in turn have been responsible for changing thousands on their own; they changed me.

Today, on this Day of Atonement, I am praying that this article may change just one person, and in in turn, change the world entire.

G’mar Hatimah Tovah.

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