Sunday, February 27, 2022

My Ukrainian Migraine

 My friend Milton, a 96-year-old World War II veteran whose self-portrait hangs in my living room (for decades Milton was my art director on Chain Store Age), wants me to write about the disaster unfolding in Ukraine. 

Trust me, I know no more about the inner demons dementing Vladimir Putin and his plans for a reconstituted Russian empire than any of the well-paid, more widely publicized experts trolling the airwaves, blogosphere and print publications.

What I do know is that death in Ukraine—death of living creatures human and animal, death of legitimate democratically elected government, death of cities and infrastructure, death of hope and opportunity—is not pleasant to read about or watch.

For centuries Ukraine has been a killing field, a killing field turned red with Jewish blood.

Killing Jews in Ukraine has a long history. According to Wikipedia, “The Ukrainian Cossack Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky led a Cossack uprising, known as Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648–1657), under the premise that the Poles had sold them as slaves ‘into the hands of the accursed Jews.’ At that time it is estimated that the Jewish population in Ukraine numbered 51,325. An army of Cossacks and Crimean Tatars massacred and took into captivity numerous Jews, Roman Catholics and Uniates in 1648–49.

“Recent estimates range from fifteen thousand to thirty thousand Jews killed or taken captive, and 300 Jewish communities totally destroyed.”

If you google “pogroms in Ukraine” one of the first citations will include the following from Nokhem Shtif’s book, “The Pogroms in Ukraine, 1918-19: Prelude to the Holocaust:”

“Between 1918 and 1921 an estimated 100,000 Jewish people were killed, maimed or tortured in pogroms in Ukraine. Hundreds of Jewish communities were burned to the ground and hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless and destitute, including orphaned children.”

Babi Yar. It’s a ravine northwest of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital now assaulted by Russian forces. Over two days, September 29-30, 1941, at Babi Yar, Nazi Germany and Ukrainian confederates slaughtered 33,771 Jewish residents of Kyiv. During the next two years another 100,000-150,000 Jews, Soviet prisoners of war, Romanis and Ukrainian nationalists were massacred at Babi Yar.

In October 1941, more than 50,000 Jews were killed in Odessa.

How ironic, then, that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, is Jewish. Members of his family were exterminated during the Holocaust. He rightfully expressed indignation after Putin justified the Russian invasion as a means of “deNazifying” Ukraine (

It is no secret many Ukrainians disliked life under Soviet Russia before the Second World War. They welcomed Hitler’s conquest of their land. Many joined paramilitary groups that aided in the killing of their neighbors—Jews—and Soviet soldiers.  

When my Uncle Willy, the sole survivor of my father’s family, hid for two years in the area around his hometown of Ottynia, now in western Ukraine but part of Poland at the beginning of the war, he had to stay away from Ukrainian neighbors lest they betray him to the Nazis. He received food and shelter from Polish neighbors. 

After the Russians liberated his area, he was drafted into their army, sent to Siberia for training, and was to be shipped out to fight the Germans when he and several other Jewish soldiers made an unusual request of their commander. They asked for a transfer to a different battalion. Why? Because their original unit was composed of Ukrainian soldiers. As Jews, they feared being shot by them more than fighting the Germans. Their request was granted.

I know it’s not right to ascribe guilt to today’s Ukrainians for sins of their ancestors. After all, much of Europe and many Arabian countries have anti-Semitic actions and killings marinated in their history, yet Israel has or wants constructive relations with them. 

Still, I feel a certain ambivalence toward Ukrainians. I know it is not rational to blame subsequent generations (as long as they do not perpetuate their forefathers’ evil). I’m not a deity that exacts punishment to the third or fourth generation. 

My cousin Laura in France has a more refined perspective. She posted about her Jewish grandmother who lived near Ottynia. She “viscerally” hated Ukrainians for their “ultra violent anti-Semitism.”

“Her hatred, she passed it to us unintentionally, by force to tell, by force to remember,” wrote Laura.

“Where I find that the unconscious is something great, is that I only realized that today, I wholeheartedly support these same Ukrainians of 2022, and that somewhere, I have roots in Ukraine TOO. 

“If my grandmother was still around I think I’d tell her that everyone can change, not just Ukrainians, but also us, actually.”

I’m not sure this posting is what Milton wanted of me. But it works for me.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Catching Up on Elementary School Mates

There’s a certain rush of serendipitous excitement when a name from your distant past appears in an article you very likely might never have read. But you did.

I’m not into the action hero comic book and film craze. Oh sure, as a youth I liked Superman, Batman, the Flash and Spider-man. But I never obsessed over them. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t complain too loudly when my mother purged my closet of comic books that today would command a handsome return on my dime investments in the storied battles against crime and inner turmoil.

I rarely watch any of the computer enhanced superhero exploits Hollywood has foisted on the viewing public. Nor do I read any of the comics on which the flicks are based. 

That’s why I was particularly surprised to find myself drawn to an article in The Forward centered on a Marvel superhero, Moon Knight, whose backstory includes his being the son of a rabbi (

And then the lightning bolt struck. Inside The Forward’s teaser daily email, the following sentence: “His backstory came courtesy of a Jewish day-school principal-turned-comic book writer, Alan Zelenetz, who put him in two 1984 issues.” 

Alan Zelenetz, the same Alan Zelenetz I shared classrooms with from first through eighth grade at Yeshiva Rambam in Brooklyn.

It did not surprise me that Alan was a comic book writer, though he did start out professionally as a rabbi and educator (

Alan was thin like me. He ate paper. Must have been an early believer in the benefits of a diet rich in fiber. I seem to recall he also ate chalk. Always drawing. Lived in an apartment house on the west side of Ocean Avenue just north of Kings Highway and Avenue P. 

Seeing Alan’s name in the Forward article got me thinking about others in my elementary school class of 31 boys and 13 girls. How many of their names would jump off the page? 

Alan’s cousin, Arnold Saltzman’s would. In our graduation yearbook—yes, I still have a copy of the 1962 booklet—Arnold’s voice was likened to Caruso’s. 

I knew that he had become a cantor serving the Washington, DC, community but was unfamiliar with details of his singing career and a medically forced transition to composer when he lost his voice (

Dov Zakheim was labeled as the smartest boy in the grade, English department valedictorian. His ambition was to be a doctor of medicine. 

He changed direction, becoming a foreign policy and defense expert, serving Reagan and George W. Bush administrations. Perhaps his most controversial action was being instrumental in killing off Israel’s development of the Lavi jet fighter in favor of Israel’s buying F-16 fighters from America.

Dubbed our wittiest classmate, Joel S. Wiener’s ambition was to become a lawyer. Mission accomplished. Joel’s main claim to fame is as chief executive of the Pinnacle Group, one of New York’s largest real estate companies. That enterprise has enabled him to become a billionaire.

Hands down our most famous classmate is Dennis Prager. A towering figure by virtue of his height even in elementary school, Dennis was rated as our “top banana,” an enduring characterization hard to dispute given his presence on the airwaves and controversial positions on religion, politics and social mores. Needless to say, for those familiar with my leanings, I am not one of his devoted flock. 

I don’t immediately recognize any other names that jump out as public figures, but five, make that six if I’m included, from a class of 44 is impressive. 

For the record, the yearbook recorded my ambition was to be a lawyer or rabbi. I was labeled the class orator.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Goodbye to the Most Dearest of Friends

I cried myself to sleep last night.

As I was winding down, checking the Internet before shutting my eyes shortly before midnight, I logged onto Facebook. It was from a post by his daughter Tash that I learned of the passing of my larger than life best friend of 40-plus years, Dave Banks, a legendary journalist in his native England as well as New York City and Australia. After a short hospital stay combating pneumonia, Dave died peacefully in his sleep at home Tuesday, nine days after his 74th birthday.

It was a miracle several times over he lived that long, a gift all of his friends, and he had many, cherished. No need to relate all the illnesses that would have toppled a weaker man over the last quarter century. Better to recall a life lived large with lots of humor and friendships. 

In the composite manner of journalists the world over, he was at one time a prodigious drinker. A large man, over 6’4” and more than 280 pounds, or 20 stones if my assessment is correct, Dave never revealed to me an equally prodigious appetite. Indeed, to Gilda and me he was a dainty eater, very neat and cultured, a baker, soup maker, gardener of flowers and vegetables and even a chicken farmer in the cottage he and Gemma, his wife of 46 years, moved into in the quaint northern English village of Crookham, after he retired from the rush of London-based journalism.  

Crookham is just miles from the Scottish border, an area where Dave spent part of his youth. He became part of the local pub scene, usually the Red Lion Inn in nearby Milfield, where he shared many a pint with an assortment of characters he lovingly and amusingly populated in his self-started Internet chronicle of Northumberland country life, Voice of the North. 

Dave was not a high brow journalist. He had an intense understanding of what interests the common man and woman and how a newspaper could transmit to them the essential information they needed to evaluate politicians and happenings that affected them.

He displayed his talent on three continents. He held editors titles at Britain’s Daily Mirror, the New York Post, then back to England for The Sun. He returned to New York as editor of The Daily News before embarking on a five year stint in Australia at The Australian and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Back in England he led the Mirror. 

Dave branched out into electronic media in the 1990s. He hosted talk radio formats on LBC and Talk Radio UK. For a short time he also hosted a half hour cable show from inside a pub. Gilda and I appeared as guests for one telecast, providing an American take on the legality of shooting a home intruder.  

We met Dave and the diminutive Gemma (maybe 5’3,” 115 pounds) when our son Dan was about 12 months old. Their daughter Natasha, (Tash or Tasha as she usually is called), was about six weeks younger. Though our back yards abutted, we were oblivious to each other until a neighbor, reasoning that two journalists might have something in common, introduced us at her daughter’s third birthday party. The party was a real bore, but the friendship she originated has lasted for more than 40 years across three continents.

Dave was one of Rupert Murdoch’s imports, brought to the States to spunk up The Post with tabloid tastes that now seem ordinary but back in 1979-80 were viewed as racy and sensational. Sitting in his living room drinking wine that first day after the party was over, I remember Gilda bemoaning the vulgarity of Post headlines. I commented that the one I liked best for its temerity and rakishness was, “Ted Campaigns Near Mary Jo’s Grave.” Still, I cautioned Gilda that we shouldn’t criticize The Post until we found out in more detail what Dave did for the paper. Without missing a beat Dave informed us that though he did not write my favorite headline, it was his job to compose, or approve, the headlines for the first six pages of each day’s paper!

What followed was a decades-long discussion of the merits of popular vs. elitist journalism and a friendship, a love, between two couples that has survived the Banks’ meanderings back to England, several years in Australia, a return to London, another stay in White Plains to help run The Daily News, a final return to London for a multi-media career in print, radio and cable television.

My mind is racing with stories about Dave’s exploits, both practical jokes and tabloid journalism exclusives. Dave’s claim to fame, or infamy, includes running pictures of a pregnant Princess Diana at the beach, for which his British paper, The Sun, had to apologize and did so by running the offending pictures again, and his authorizing the placement of a camera that captured photos of Princess Diana working out inside a London gym, a deed that led other news outlets to stake out his home with round-the-clock cameras. Gemma was not a happy camper after that turn of the camera lens.

As he was being rushed by ambulance to hospital in March 2002, Dave’s mobile phone rang. Inside the ambulance Gemma answered her husband’s phone. The BBC wanted to get his reaction to the death of The Queen Mother. Gemma calmly related it was not a good time for Dave to talk.

It was one of the few times Dave’s thoughts and opinions were silenced. Even when we toured Israel together Dave could not escape being part of the news. The telephone hacking scandal involving Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper had broken. As a former top editor inside Murdoch’s empire Dave was a much-wanted source. While Gemma joined Gilda and me atop Masada, Dave stayed back in our hotel so he could opine on the airwaves back home.

It seemed at times Dave’s knowledge was boundless. English history. Gardening tips. British politics. American politics. Baseball trivia. 

Together we toured parts of southeastern England, Scotland, London, Israel, and, of course, New York. Our last trip together was in September 2019 to southern Scotland. Dave and I would fence with repartees that challenged each of us to outwit the other. Puns were our foils. Gilda and Gemma ignored us, content to converse on more adult topics. 

Even with today’s communications technology it is not easy maintaining a friendship, a warm friendship, across oceans. Somehow we did. Each conversation by phone or FaceTime, started as if we had been interrupted just minutes before. We last talked right before New Year’s. 

Across an ocean the loss is no less painful.

When you, your friends and family are in their eighth decade or more, death becomes a commonplace, not unexpected though surely not casually tolerated, part of life. It’s an unwelcome intrusion. It drives home our vulnerability. Our finality. 

In the past year death has visited friends and family three times. I’d like to say, “Enough already!,” but I know tears will flow again, probably not as fluidly as they did last night, but flow they will. 

Gilda, Murray, Dave and Gemma on the road to Scotland.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Potty Time: Trump's Toiletgate Tale and the Travails of Shared Facilities

Despite his denials, there can be little doubt in any reasonably open mind that Donald Trump tried to flush his improprieties down a White House toilet. That’s the conclusion any sane observer would reach to the revelation that White House personnel found presidential papers clogging the drain (

Exactly which papers has not been revealed, but given Trump’s longstanding, er, make that longsitting, propensity to dispose of papers by ripping them up after he has used, er, read, them, it might be presumed the flushed material probably reflected poorly on his performance as president.

Flushgate, or Toiletgate, is but another example of Trump’s personal imprint on presidential behavior. Not that other presidents didn’t have their own bathroom peccadillos. Lyndon Baines Johnson was said to confer with aides while he sat on the potty with the bathroom door open.

Trump never admits to an impropriety even after numerous insiders have spilled the beans on his outlandish habits, so his denial is rather hollow.

It’s doubtful Trump will face any criminal charges for violating the The Presidential Records Act, which was enacted to make sure all presidential communications, even unflattering ones, are saved for the benefit of history. Even more doubtful any of his supporters will find anything revolting in his actions.

Another Toilet Story: The New York Times finally got around to printing an article February 6 originally disseminated on its web site January 27. The online article, “Do I really Need a Toilet?,” centered on Stephen Ruddy’s apartment hunting dilemma. 

He found “an amazing (two-bedroom) apartment on Carmine Street” in Greenwich Village for a reasonable $1,995 a month. As The Times’ print headline noted, “Why’s the Rent So Low? There’s a Seat Missing.” 

The “seat” in question was a toilet seat. Anyone leasing the apartment would use a toilet in the hallway, a toilet shared by other renters on the floor (

WNYC’s Brian Lehrer was so fascinated by Ruddy’s experience he included a 12-minute segment on his daily  public radio call-in show dealing with the compromises renters face when choosing an otherwise ideal apartment (

I didn’t call in, but I, too, had to choose whether to rent a hallway-only bathroom during my 10 months in Syracuse while pursuing my master’s degree. 

My story didn’t start out that way. In August I had rented a fully-furnished apartment with bathroom a few miles from campus. When I returned a few weeks later, days before classes were to begin, I was surprised to find the landlord had rented it out to someone else. 

I was desperate to find new lodging. I found a third floor studio in an old Victorian house a few blocks from the university. The only drawback—I would have to share a bathroom with another tenant.

Now, I’ve shared bathrooms before. For the first 21 years of my life I shared a bathroom with anywhere from three to four family members. And, eight weeks for each of 15 summers at sleepaway camp, anywhere from eight to 16 bunkmates shared facilities. I stayed in some youth hostels and pensiones with common bathrooms while traveling abroad. 

But I never endured a one-to-one arrangement with a total stranger. 

My toilet-mate remained a stranger throughout my lease. I can recall meeting him just once, perhaps the first day I moved in. We didn’t discuss who would clean the bathroom. I never did. I suspect he didn’t either. I’m squirming just recalling how disgusting it must have become.

Entry to the bathroom was from two doors, his leading into his studio, mine from the hallway. Each door had an inside lock. I remember only one time being denied entry because he forgot to release the lock on the hallway door. I knocked on his apartment door. No answer. 

I could wait until he returned home or seek relief elsewhere. I chose the latter.   

Thursday, February 10, 2022

'Tis the Season for Cleaning Out "Stuff"

 It’s been said you can tell when a pregnant woman will shortly give birth by her sudden passion for tidying up her living quarters. This bubbameister, Yiddish for old wives’ tale, is described as a nesting instinct taking command of maternal feelings.

Gilda and I are well beyond our reproductive years so I am perplexed by her sudden devotion to paring our household of tchotchkes that, at least for some of them, had honored placements in our bedroom, our dining room, our living room. Sterling silver salt and pepper shakers. Pottery pitchers. Vases. Commemorative awards for community service decades ago. All “stuff” neither of our children would want. 

Perhaps it’s just another way she is coping with almost total confinement during the pandemic. Even when we do get out there’s no guarantee the excursion will be satisfactory. We recently went to see a play at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan. We’ve been members for more than a dozen years and have seen numerous great performances there including four Pulitzer Prize productions, three Pulitzer finalists and numerous Tony and Obie Award winners. 

Had the 90-minute play we just saw had an intermission we would not have stayed for act two. Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

Gilda has not lived a stagnant life. Her nursing career was a continuous series of learning new specialties, from newborn intensive care to pre- and post-natal counseling, to infectious disease research on HIV, hepatitis and Lyme disease, to spine surgery.

In retirement she is now studying to be a volunteer expert on horticulture, rodents and insects for the Cornell Cooperative Extension Program in Westchester.

And I shouldn’t forget to note that she is a self-taught excellent cook, an accomplishment I truly appreciate given that when we first married her culinary skills were, dare I say, lacking.

Getting back to her recent home improvement interests, I’ve been informed new carpeting for the upstairs hallway is in the works. An interior paint job also is in the offing.

Fortunately we can handle these expenses, especially as Covid saved us the cost of half a dozen trips, domestic and international, we had hoped to go on over the last two years.

She’s not done reconfiguring. She thinks we need a new Internet router with professional installation as we are both tech savvy-impaired and the stress of self-installation is not worth the stress on our sanity, not to mention our marriage.

I don’t disagree on the merits of hiring a geek but I’m unconvinced on the need for a new router. It’s only a matter of time before I see it her way. That’s what 49 years together has taught me.

Case in point: 11 years ago I thwarted Gilda’s first attempt to part with the aforementioned salt and pepper silver shakers. How do I recall so exactly the year? Because this is what I wrote back in my blog on April 11, 2011:

“Spring is heralded as a season of cleaning. Gilda is no exception to this annual rite. I’ve loaded up several bags of discards for the dump or the Salvation Army. She wanted to dispose of a pair of sterling silver salt and pepper shakers (four containers in total, in case you’re confused by my wording), hand-me-downs from my mother that we haven’t used in years, mainly because we didn’t take care of them properly and they tarnished.

“I applied commercial silver polish to one Tuesday and brought back its luster, reversing years of corrosion and Gilda’s appreciation for them. Thursday I treated the remaining three shakers, but first consulted Haley’s Hints, a guide to chores using everyday items you’d find around the house. Combining a quart of hot water, a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of washing soda and a strip of aluminum foil, I removed the tarnish. They’re not quite as shiny as brand new, but they are presentable.”

In the years since we never used them. No one has ever looked into our dining room breakfront to admire them. They simply stood silently upright accepting new coats of tarnish.

Gilda was right. They have to go.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

60 Years After My Bar Mitzvah

Standing in temple Saturday for the first time in months because of the Omicron virus, I was suddenly transported back in time, 60 years to be exact, for it was on this Sabbath in 1962, according to the Jewish cycle of Torah portion reading, that I was officially recognized as an adult male. I had attained bar mitzvah status. 

It snowed the night before that auspicious morning, leaving three to six inches of powder for me to walk through to the synagogue on Ocean Avenue three and a half blocks from our home. 

Back then a bar mitzvah rite was little more than an addendum to the regular ritual. Few guests sitting in the pews amid congregants. Friends and extended family would show up for the gala party that evening. Morning services were for the devoted. 

Despite sending my siblings and me to Jewish day schools, and membership in an Orthodox synagogue, ours was not a deeply observant family. We ate kosher, in our home. We used electricity and travelled on the Sabbath. Most Saturdays our father would attend synagogue, leaving home after he was reasonably certain he had awakened me and my brother, usually under the threat of dousing us with water in our beds, so that we would not show up too late. 

Once there, during the weekly Torah reading and subsequent sermon by the rabbi, my friends Stanley, Jerry, Marty and I would exit the sanctuary to find an unlocked classroom where we would play slapball using paper wadded into a ball held together by rubber bands. 

After running around some forty minutes we’d return to the sanctuary. My father would always wonder why I’d come back sweaty. Of course, he, too, had taken time off from services to join his cohorts at a meeting of the “bottle club” usually held in the office of the temple president. 

My mother and sister rarely attended services. For mom an infrequent appearance usually included a grand walk down the center aisle, what I labeled her “Queen of the Nile” entrance. 

For my bar mitzvah I learned to recite a haftorah, a reading from a book of the Bible that followed the Five Books of Moses. My haftorah came from Kings I. It described how King Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, an apt complement to the Torah portion of the day, Terumah, which chronicled how the tabernacle was constructed in the desert following the exodus from Egypt. 

Unlike most bar mitzvah boys, I chose not to learn how to read from the Torah. Though a top student in my class, I doubted my ability. Stage fright. My father didn’t mind. Instead, he had the cantor teach me to lead the musaf portion of the service. At home I recorded the musaf which Dad turned into vinyl records to be proudly sent to friends and relatives in Israel. 

Several times over the ensuing 60 years I have commemorated my bar mitzvah anniversary by reading the haftorah and leading musaf services. This year, to be honest, I was surprised by the timing of my bar mitzvah anniversary. Chalk it up as another Covid casualty.

Pre-pandemic, Gilda and I would attend Sabbath morning services about 75% of the time. We didn’t spend a lot of time praying. Mostly it was soft conversations with friends sitting nearby, joining in communal singing, silent meditations, listening to sermons (in my case, more often than not, sleeping through them), and then enjoying food and socializing with other worshippers at the after-services kiddish in the social hall. 

All in all, we reveled in community, our faith-based community. Just as we celebrated our children’s and our friends’ children’s bar- and bat mitzvahs decades ago, we were delighted to witness subsequent generations reach adulthood, witness a young couple prepare for their wedding, enjoy a baby naming, or express condolences to the bereaved. 

The last two Covid years robbed us all of many such experiences, not the least of which have been attendance at life cycle events. Bar and bat mitzvahs. Weddings. Funerals. 

With the belief that Omicron is not as dangerous to the vaccinated, a debate has started about online religious services. The Rev. Tish Harrison Warren advocated going back to in-person services ( Not everyone agreed (two links: and

As much as religion has historically been a communal process, it is a personal experience. Only you can decide your preference. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

A Wisdom Tooth Out and Two Crowns to Come, A List of Favorite Films with Dentists

Having never had my tonsils out I missed the juvenile enjoyment of a recuperatory ice cream-focused menu. Now, as I approach my 73rd birthday, I am on an ice cream and whipped cream diet during an oral surgeon imposed restriction on eating hard and hot foods, even liquid nourishment like hot soup, after he pulled my last wisdom tooth Wednesday afternoon.

That tooth, on the lower right side of my jaw, came out during a painless procedure performed under sedation by the same specialist who removed my top right wisdom tooth eight years ago without complications.

For the first two of my previous extractions I could not give a similar assessment. Each encompassed a painful experience (

I’m not finished with immediate dental work. My regular dentist has prescribed two replacement crowns on the left side of my mouth, though mysteriously the intermittent pain they have caused has vanished ever since the wisdom tooth on the right side was extracted. I’ll see what dentist Mitch has to say next week.

Mitch is a loyal reader of my blog so he probably will not be surprised by the unexpected turn of events, though I doubt he will change his mind about the efficacy of the recommended procedures.

Last week I asked him if he had any suggestions for a list I was compiling of movies with characters who were dentists. Alas, he did not. So you’re stuck with my favorites:

Marathon Man

Finding Nemo

Little Shop of Horrors (musical and straight versions)

My Darling Clementine

The In-laws (1979 Alan Arkin-Peter Falk version)


Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

The Hangover


Django Unchained

I don’t normally include television shows in my movie lists but this classic Tim Conway-Harvey Korman skit from The Carol Burnett show is too good to leave out (



Thursday, February 3, 2022

Tom Brady: A Tale of Two Goats

The internet and sports worlds have been ablaze about Tom Brady’s apparent dissing of his team of 20 years, the New England Patriots, by not singling out for praise and appreciation in his retirement Instagram notice the organization and its key executives, including owner Robert Kraft and coach Tom Belichick.

After all, Brady did win six Super Bowl titles and four championship game Most Valuable Player awards as a Patriot (he earned a fifth Super Bowl MVP award with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). His liaison with Belichick was commonly hailed as a defining merger of the mind and will to win.

But is success on the field a true measure of the relationship between a coach and key player?

Having just watched Terry Bradshaw’s autobiographical documentary on his career (“Terry Bradshaw: Going Deep”), which included four Super Bowl victories with two MVP awards, I was surprised to hear the retired quarterback and longtime football analyst never liked his coach, Chuck Noll, considered one of the best in history. The antipathy was on full display in 2014 at Noll’s funeral. Bradshaw didn’t attend.

Under Coach Bill Parcells the New York Giants won two Super Bowls, the first in 1987 with Phil Simms as quarterback. Simms was again leading the team in 1990 when he broke his right foot in the next to last game of the season. He had to sit out the last game, the playoffs and the 1991 Super Bowl. Jeff Hostetler quarterbacked every game, winning them all.

Simms and Parcell had a volatile relationship. Even a casual Giants fan would have been hard pressed to miss Parcells berating Simms on the sideline when he was displeased with his performance.

Okay, a coach’s number one concern is winning. And since a QB’s actions often determine that success rate it might be expected if not tolerated for the two to have a mercurial relationship. Coaches cannot wait until a game is over to critique a quarterback’s performance. They need results on the spot before the clock runs out.

Still, one would think that when cleats are hung up and time has come to reflect on achievements not accomplished by other athletes, recognition of an organization and coach would have been the correct and decent thing for Brady to do.

Brady is the GOAT of football, the Greatest Of All Time. But in the sports world I grew up following, “goat” had a far different meaning. It connoted a player whose on field play cost his team a victory (fyi, back in my formative years there were no female sports teams covered by newspapers, thus the masculine “his” team).

Not thanking the Pats, Kraft and Belichick in his initial message reflected poorly on Brady, making him a “goat” for his off-field behavior.


Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Whoopi Goldberg Sparks a Debate: Is Anti-Semitism a Form of Racism?

What is a Jew?

It’s a question that has been debated for centuries.

Is a Jew merely someone who follows the precepts of the Old Testament, or the Talmud?

Does a Jew have physical characteristics that can immediately identify their belonging to a “tribe?” Skin color? The slant of their eyes, the prominence of their nose? Are they physically inept, poor athletically, with stooped shouldered?

How about behavioral traits? Are Jews intelligent but in manipulative, miserly, sneaky ways?

Is a Jew a member of a race? A clan? A creed? A nationality? A people? A culture? An ethnicity?

A religion, for sure. But does someone become Jewish simply by converting? Are Chinese Jews really Jewish in all senses of the classification? Do naturally born Jews accept converts as Jews, as part of their race, clan, creed, nationality, culture, ethnic. Their people? 

What about the converse? If a Jew converts to another religion, do they lose their Jewishness?

I’ll leave it to philosophers and experts far more discerning than I to postulate a definitive response to the central question of “what is a Jew?” in the aftermath of Whoopi Goldberg’s since recanted expression Monday that Jews cannot be considered victims of racism because their skin is generally white while to be a victim of racism one has to have colored skin (

Attacks on Jews or their institutions are most definitely acts of ant-Semitism. But are these actions racism, as well?

There is a simple source to consult for the answer—Adolph Hitler and his Nazi code. In words and deeds Hitler and his henchmen in Germany and throughout Europe believed Jews were a race, an inferior race to be annihilated. Even Jews who converted. Even offspring of mixed marriages.

The Nazis were so dedicated to this racist doctrine that towards the end of World War II they diverted resources needed by their military so the extermination effort could continue unabated.

Thanks to Whoopi Goldberg’s naiveté, the question of racism in all its guises may be discussed more accurately and universally ( It is a lesson far too many Americans and the world over must learn.