Nesenoff v Thomas

March 20, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Chabad of Melbourne CBD in Melbourne has hosted a function addressed by U.S.-based  Dr. David Nesenoff who gained fame challenging anti-Semitic remarks made by White House journalist, Helen Thomas.

Rabbi Yisroel Rasin Dr David Nesenoff and rabbi Kaminetsky

Rabbi Yisroel Rasin Dr David Nesenoff and rabbi Kaminetsky

He started off by telling his life story. He had been serving as a Rabbi in a Conservative synagogue for twenty years when he made up his mind that Conservative Judaism was not what he was looking for. During his soul searching his lifetime passion for Israel was reawakened, and he wanted to do something special for it. Originally he had an idea to make a video documentary of points of interest in Israel, including the Kotel and selected archeological findings. However his wife was not so enthralled by the idea, and in he ended up remaining in the United States.

A short while later his son took the initiative and called up the White House requesting to be present at a Chanukah lighting ceremony in order to be able to film the event for a documentary. The White House official explained that the Chanukah lighting ceremony had already taken place, however the following week the White House would be hosting an event celebrating Jewish Tradition. He received a confirmation that both he and his son would be able to attend and film the event.

On the day of the event, both Dr. Nesenoff and his son arrived early and while they were waiting around a press conference was taking place. He noticed Helen Thomas, a noted White House journalist from the times of President Eisenhower, sitting in the front row and decided to approach her about her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Helen Thomas replied, “They should go back to where they came from”. Not quite understanding, Dr. Nesenoff asked her who she was referring to. She replied, “The Jews should leave Israel and go to where they came from”. Again Dr. Nesenoff didn’t understand what she meant and asked her to clarify. “They should go back to where they belong, to Poland and to Germany”, she reiterated.

The entire conversation had been filmed on his camera, but he wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it. Shortly afterwards the story about the Israeli Army boarding a Turkish flotilla on its way to Gaza, killing a few of those on board, was being reported in the world news. Helen Thomas was very outspoken of her personal view that the Israeli’s were guilty of killing people who their only interest was peace. She went so far as requesting President Obama to take action against the way Israel dealt with the situation.

This was just a little too much for Dr. Nesenoff. He went straight to work uploading the video he had taken of Helen Thomas on YouTube.  Over the weekend alone the video received 700,000 hits. Overnight he began to receive both threats from many angry people, and also request from countless TV stations to get a firsthand account of his story.

Ari Fleisher, Spokesman for the White House, got in contact with Dr. Nesenoff and explained to him that he should prepare a message to give over to journalists because if he didn’t then the journalists themselves will make up things in his name. He decided to contact Elie Wiesel, a noted Holocaust survivor and activist, for his advice. Elie Wiesel told Dr. Nesenoff that he had read of him in the news that he attends a Chabad House, and it would therefore be appropriate for him to ask a Chabad Shliach what the Lubavitcher Rebbe would have advised in such a scenario. The Shliach directed him to Rabbi Avrohom Shemtov who willingly supplied him with a message. Rabbi Shemtov explained that the connection of the Jewish people to Israel is not just because Jews live there and were born there. Our connection to Israel is because G-d granted the Land to the Jewish people. This is akin to the intrinsic connection between a father and son. Even if the son doesn’t see his father for many years, the bond between them doesn’t become weaker in the slightest. This is in contrast to the relationship of friends, which becomes weaker through the fact that the friends don’t see each other.

Dr. Nesenoff concluded his speech by emphasizing that the only way to combat anti-Semitism is by committing one’s self to a life of Torah and Mitzvot. He spoke at great length of the Rebbe’s talks which address this.

Chabad of Melbourne CBD in Melbourne is headed by the Rabbi Chaim Herzog.

In Sydney, join Young Adult Chabad Friday Night, 22nd March for Shabbat Dinner and Saturday Afternoon 23rd March, for a “Mind blowing” “Entertaining” Musical Shabbat With Rabbi Dr David Nesenoff.

Place: Yeshiva, Flood St, Bondi


2 Responses to “Nesenoff v Thomas”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Great energy and effort by Dr. Nesenoff. And, yes, we need his kind in Australia. However, we need more than the message suggested by Rabbi Shemtov to deal with the kind of issue elaborated. That “G-d granted the Land to the Jewish people”, while received with respect, warmth and affirmation by many Jews, could, and is, received quite differently by others. And it’s the others we’re attempting to promote understanding with. More to the point perhaps is the ancient felt connection carried through generations of Jews, of attachment to Israel as the original land to which the Jewish ancestors belonged (a bit in the line of Australian Aboriginal attachment to land or American Native Indians), together with the visceral and spiritual connection to Jerusalem, no matter where in the world Jews live. Also, the historical longevity of Jewish existence on that Land. This is why, as an option, when a place for Jews was being considered by the earlier Zionists, the idea of the Kimberley or Uganda was way off the mark, and it’s also why this ignorant woman, Helen Thomas, is way off the mark with her ‘go back to Poland/Germany’ remark. To give a purely religious message is too narrow an explanation (as all-embracing as it might appear to be to those who believe in it). And it was certainly not the only reason behind Jews from Europe coming to Israel during the 1930s and post Second World War. It leaves out a lot and makes it a religious issue only.

  2. MICHAEL says:

    Went along Tuesday afternoon to hear David Nesenoff , a very interesting guy if only we his type here in Oz.
    David doesn’t take any prisoners he stands up for Jews and Israelis , doesn’t pussy foot around very different to Jewish community representatives here , they could learn from him, thats for sure.

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