Other Current Issues

Pittsburgh

It is difficult to think and write about anything other than the shooting in the Pittsburgh synagogue. Whereas only a few years ago, we had to worry about violence from foreign countries, now the main concern is violence committed by our own citizens. The massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue is a tipping point for me personally because I know so many people in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. All over the world, people go to houses of worship on their Sabbath to find peace, inspiration, and community; it is one of the last places one would expect a deranged individual to shoot people. I am certain I won’t be the only one who will be preoccupied with this massacre the next time I attend a house of worship.

Theories abound as to why there is an escalation of violence in the United States.  I have no ready answers or solutions but want to instead eulogize the people that we lost in the shooting.

Cecil and David Rosenthal, aged 59 and 54, were brothers that lived near the synagogue and often helped out during the services and other activities in the building. Both had intellectual disabilities and were described as inseparable. Chris Schopf, vice president of residential supports for ACHIEVA, an agency that provides support for individuals with disabilities in Pennsylvania, said this about the Rosenthal brothers, “Most of all, they were kind, good people with a strong faith and respect for everyone around.”

Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, aged 66, was a doctor. People recalled when others were afraid of treating people with HIV, Dr. Rabinowitz would hold their hands without gloves. Always ready to help others, he ran out immediately when he heard gunshots. Family and patients describe him as loving, kind, and compassionate.

Richard Gottfried, 65, was a dentist and active in the congregation. He worked at the Squirrel Hill Medical Center with his wife, who is also a dentist. They were well-known for taking refugees and immigrants as patients.

Sylvan and Bernice Simon, aged 86 and 84, were married in the Tree of Life synagogue in 1956. They were a close couple who were often seen holding hands. People recalled them as being kind to everyone.

Irwin Younger, 69, was a small business owner and a kids’ baseball coach. He prayed and volunteered regularly at the synagogue. Irwin was always anxious to make newcomers feel welcomed.

Melvin Wax, 88, was a retired accountant. He always arrived early for services and often led the congregation in the prayers.

Rose Mallinger, 97, was active in the Tree of Life synagogue for six decades. She attended services every weekend and people recalled her humor and intelligence. She was warm and loving and never complained about anything.

Daniel Stein, 71, was retired and attended the synagogue every Saturday. A nephew described him as a great guy with a dry sense of humor.

Joyce Feinberg, 75, was a retired research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.  Her late husband Stephen taught statistics at nearby Carnegie Mellon University. Joyce and her husband would welcome his students into their home.

These eleven people attending synagogue services had no connection with the gunman. As in all these acts of violence, we lose innocent people senselessly.

When will it stop?

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller that covers the issues of autism and the human trafficking crisis. 

Note: From now until November 24th, True Mercy is on sale at Smashwords for only 99 cents! Log onto https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/747954 and enter the coupon code EA37K.

 

Share this:

Thai Cave Rescue: Finally, News to Inspire

Photographer: Adam Sherez

I have a voracious appetite for keeping up with the news, but after days of reading or watching TV following Meghan Markle breaking royal protocol by crossing her legs at public events and the continual mud-slinging of the country’s politicians, it was refreshing to read about the dramatic rescue of the 12 boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach who were trapped in a cave for over two weeks in Thailand.

Like most people, I read the articles and watched the news with growing trepidation about their chances of rescue after being trapped while under threat from heavy rains flooding the cave and their dependence on oxygen tanks. The soccer team was exploring a cave after soccer practice, and since it was rainy season in Thailand, a downpour flooded the tunnels and they became trapped. Oxygen tanks and food and water were brought down while rescue crews worked tirelessly to keep them alive while planning their rescue.

A few days ago a former Thai navy diver died while attempting to bring oxygen supplies down to the cave. Unfortunately, his own oxygen supply ran out. At that point their fate looked bleak.

But on Tuesday, while reading about which NBA players were likely going to stay on their teams and which may be traded and Kim Kardashian’s little daughter North West making her fashion debut, I was happy and relieved to find out that all thirteen young men were rescued. And even more heartwarming, it was an international effort—divers and other help came from Britain, the US, Australia, and Israel along with the Thai Navy SEALS.

While I don’t wish for anyone to be in danger and in need of rescue, it was certainly a story of substance and encouragement. Apparently, others thought so as well. A Hollywood movie producer and a major publisher have expressed interest in bringing their story to the public.

Clearly, this was a news item that touched our spirits and gave us the inspiration we all crave.

RIP Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy seal, who passed away in his valiant attempt to rescue the boys.

Share this:

The Suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit I don’t understand. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two people who have reached the pinnacle of their professions, rising above the crushing competition of people clawing to get ahead, having all the money they need and more, commit suicide.

Most people struggle to stand out in their careers, come up with the money to pay their bills and hopefully put aside enough for enjoyment while they keep dreaming of a better life. And they don’t commit suicide.

In my novel True Mercy, I wrote of young women going through the nightmare of being tricked into sex slavery. Every moment is a horror. Another subject in my novel is the stresses and challenges of taking care of a loved one with autism, where the individual’s moods and behaviors are unpredictable. Caregivers often get frazzled and are in desperate need of respite. To my knowledge, neither Kate Spade nor Anthony Bourdain experienced challenges such as these.

Spade rose to be a world-renown fashion icon famous for her prized signature handbags. Bourdain was an author and chef who traveled the world telling stories and sampling each culture’s cuisine on his award-winning television show. Needless to say, they could live wherever they wanted, command respect for their talents and accomplishments, and live the lives most of us only fantasize about.

Each one had a young child. Part of being a parent is living to protect and take care of your children. No matter how bad things get the instinct of a parent is to be there for their child. After all, if a parent is not watching over them, who will?

I remain dumbfounded by these suicides. They had everything to live for, what the vast majority of us strive for every day. They rose above the everyday concerns most of us have. I suppose the only way to understand what was wrong would be to find out what was going on in their heads. But it’s too late for that. So we are left scratching our own heads.

The only conclusion I can come up with comes from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible:

“that God sometimes grants a man riches, property, and wealth, so that he does not want for anything his appetite may crave, but God does not permit him to enjoy it; instead, a stranger will enjoy it. That is futility and a grievous ill.”

Ecclesiastes 6:2

Share this:

The Florida School Shooting Tragedy: Some Thoughts

(Photo by Nicole De Khors)

May the souls of those who perished rest in peace.

The nation is once again reeling after the recent high school Florida shooting tragedy which left seventeen people dead. In the aftermath come the questions: why did this happen? How do we prevent this from happening again? Theories abound: banning guns, more security in schools, make mental health care more widespread and accessible, etc.

All of these measures have merit: Enforce tougher background checks for those who want to buy a gun, increase security in the schools and provide more counseling and resources for those who are troubled and going through a rough patch in their lives. But there is one I would like to discuss in this article, which is to reduce the amount of violence in the media.

When I watch television, I am frequently repulsed by commercials for upcoming movies. Actors are constantly shooting at each other. I once joked to my family that if these brave, macho actors were dealing with these situations in real life, instead of fighting, they would be running for their lives. What happens is people get desensitized to violence—after all, they see it in the movies, on television shows, the news, books, video games, sports, etc.

And who are the most impressionable? Young people. They grow up immersed in this violent culture and some become convinced it is the only way the world will pay any attention to them.

Out of this tragedy came many heroes, people who showed tremendous bravery and even sacrificed their lives to protect others, but I am sure everyone would agree that it would be much better if these school shootings could be prevented in the first place.

Much work has to be done. Unstable people should not be allowed to buy guns, counseling should be available for all, every student has the right to be safe in school and the media has to stop its glorification of violence.

Share this:

The North Korean Crisis

(Note: Last week I was unable to post an article due to the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The recent crisis with North Korea has led me to research and reflect on the outcome of the Korean War of the early 1950’s. More specifically, could this international tension have been averted 67 years ago?

First I need to give a short recap of the war based on my research: On June 25, 1950, 75,000 soldiers from the pro-Soviet Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north crossed the 38th parallel, which is the boundary between North and South Korea. The invasion surprised the United States, for South Korea was and still is a pro-Western nation. This invasion is considered the first military action of the Cold War. President Harry S. Truman sent American troops under UN auspices to the Korean peninsula in August 1950. He appointed World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur to lead the forces to protect South Korea. General MacArthur and his troops pushed the North Koreans back and landed at the Battle of Inchon toward the Yalu River, which is the border between North Korea and China. Alarmed, the communist Chinese sent troops to warn the Americans to stay away from the Yalu River unless they were prepared to go to war.

MacArthur’s plan was to go ahead and attack China’s supply bases near the Yalu River, but Truman feared this would provoke World War III. When MacArthur’s plan was leaked to the press, Truman fired him. From then on, the fighting continued for two more years as both sides attempted to reach an armistice. When it was finally achieved and signed on July 27, 1953, both sides agreed to draw a new boundary at the 38th parallel. As a result of the war, 5 million people died: more than half were civilians. 40,000 American troops lost their lives and 100,000 were injured.

Although the fighting ended, both North and South Korea are still in a state of war. No peace treaty was ever signed and each side considers themselves the only legitimate government of Korea. In the years following the Korean War, North Korea has committed numerous human rights violations, including using its resources to develop nuclear weapons rather than feeding its people. Free speech is nonexistent in North Korea and there are occasional skirmishes with South Korea along the border. The imprisonment and tragic death of Otto Warmbier, a US student who visited the country, only highlights the nefarious intentions of North Korea. The testy threats between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un has only increased the already tense atmosphere. It appears something has to give.

Did Truman make the right decision at the time? General MacArthur’s plan was no doubt reckless and dangerous, and Truman, of course, wanted to prevent World War III. To think there may have been a possibility that this conflict could have been resolved somehow 67 years ago may be wishful thinking on my part. If only there was some way to undo all the damage over the years.

Information for this blog comes from history.com and Wikipedia.

Idelle Kursman is the author of the thriller True Mercy. Read more of her posts on www.luckcanchange.com.

Share this: