The Muslim Who Ran To Save A Jew


This week a young Muslim man, Ahmed Khalifa, witnessed a man assault a Jewish woman while she was praying. In his words:
"I was on the Q train siting across from the victim. And the perp just came out of nowhere and hit the poor Jewish lady in the face hard enough that she was bleeding."
The attack happened on a New York subway train at the Newkirk Avenue station in Brooklyn.


Ahmed chased the man all the way from Newkirk Avenue to Coney Island, a distance of nearly five miles.

OnlySimchas.com has a fuller account of the incident, including an interview.

This isn't Ahmed's first act of heroism; he previously saved a homeless man from jumping to his death on the train tracks. What is so amazing, so awesome about this young man is that he translates his belief into a total focus on doing the right thing. He says:
"I just want people to know that no matter what race, religion, belief, etc. you are I think of everyone as equal and I’ll do anything to make sure people know that."
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the zealousness of Matisyahu, the Jewish priest who killed the Greek official who tried to force him to make a pagan sacrifice. This great religious leader went on to lead the Jews in our miraculously successful fight for freedom. 

As a Jew I find that all religions help me get closer to God. It is a closeness that often proves elusive, and I crave it.

Jewish people most often inspire me with principled-ness -- a stubborn determination to do the right thing, even if it means disagreeing with everybody else.

Christians inspire me with their unbelievable faith and capacity for forgiveness, and spiritual rebirth.

Buddhists teach me compassion and a focus on solving the practical problems associated with human suffering.

And Muslims inspire me greatly as well. I see the holiness of their faith. They are fighters for God and of God.

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All opinions my own. Photo of Newkirk Avenue subway station via Wikipedia.

Why Be Happy In The Rain

Yesterday I went to New York and was so happy to be there I didn't mind walking blocks and blocks in the rain just to see Times Square.

It was as though my feet were as light as air, and I didn't have a care in the world. All the troubles and the worries on my mind virtually melted away, as I visited this place I have always loved and enjoyed so much.

Thinking about it on the way home, I realized that it doesn't do any good to be depressed, anxious and worried--about anything. While it's true that negative emotions can be useful in signaling that something is wrong, there also comes a point where you can lean on the emotion as a substitute for action.

In other words, your mind engages in the cognitive fallacy of telling itself that feeling upset about a thing is your duty as a concerned individual and even acts as a means of changing whatever in the world is wrong.

But the reality is, that's just not true. The only way to actually influence a negative reality is to physically do something positive. And the act of that doing, generally cheers you up.

Some people think they can't make any difference whatsoever--after all, they are weak and the power of evil seems so strong! This kind of thinking makes everyone depressed, and the Rebbe (may his memory be for a blessing) warned strongly against it:

"We have seen how one individual (Hitler) brought the world to the brink of destruction, but for the mercies of the King of the Universe, Who ordained that 'the earth shall stand firm; shall not fall.' If such is the case in the realm of evil, surely one's potential is much greater in the realm of good. For, in truth, creation is essentially good, and therefore more inclined toward the good than its opposite."

- from the November 25, 2016 issue of "L'Chaim," a newsletter published by the Chabad-Lubavitch

This Chanukah, and as we head into calendar year 2017, I'll be remembering the Rebbe's message. Just as we light a single light against infinite darkness, so too even one small act by a single human being, regardless of the odds, can do a world of good.

Always stay positive--and continue to do one small constructive thing at a time.

Here's to life, and love, and lots and lots of laughter. Never stop your feet from dancing in the rain.

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All opinions my own.

I'm Gonna Get That Armrest

They created a new executive position and my colleague got the position.

"Work for me, it will be fun," she said of the new department. (It was called Strategic Communications.) "You're strategic."

"I don't know." I had a sinking feeling.

But I did it, because I'm stupid. Left the one boss, who headed up the original department, to go and work for the second.

Why was I stupid?

Because the first boss knew how to fight for territory.

The second one was honest, and she liked to share.

"Here, please take my information," she used to say enthusiastically. "How will we succeed if we don't collaborate?"

It wasn't three months, of course, before I had to get information from the old boss.

"What do you want?" She eyed me warily from the corner of her eye. "Don't look at those papers over there."

"Uh, uh, uh," I stammered.

"Hurry up!"

"Uh, I was just wondering, do you have the research on social media that I did for you last year? That binder?"

"Oh, the puppet master needs information, huh? What's the matter, you aren't that strategic without my help?"

At that she laughed mightily and pretended to rifle around the scattered papers on her desk.

"Sorry, looks like I can't find it," she said. "I guess you'll have to go it alone."

SLAM!

And that was the end of Strategic Communications, pretty much; my colleague ended up leaving the office, and sure enough I went to work for my old boss once again.

The point is, whenever you make a move in business, you've got to do it from strength. If you don't know how to negotiate, your opponent will surely slaughter you.

Which brings me back to the armrest.

I was on a flight back home from vacation, praying that the seat next to me would stay empty.

But of course, it did not stay empty and a wealthy-looking woman said, "Excuse me, miss, but that's my seat."

Whereupon I let her in, and immediately upon sitting, she proceeded to put her elbow all over the armrest that sat between us.

At first I noodged her back a bit, ever so gently, sort of ha-ha-ing and hoping that we would reach some kind of amicable agreement over this little space of property.

All was well for a few minutes, but then I took my arm away to reach for my headphones and computer.

Sure enough, there she was again, her elbow wildly on my side, leaning back innocently and watching TV. Her face wore a small, pleased smile and she pretended to be deeply absorbed in watching a cooking show.

This annoyed me to no end for about half an hour, and I realized that there was no winning this territorial war. She was going to have her armrest, and that was the end of that.

So I took to watching TV myself, and as is my usual habit, watched 35 channels a minute, flipping and flipping and flipping so that I could see multiple shows at once.

Also I put down the tray table and tried to get on the wi-fi, a frustrating exercise, and many times knocked out the headphone cord from the armrest, requiring me to replace it over and over again.

It occurred to me, on observing how I behave on a flight, that I am probably the most annoying person you can possibly travel next to, unless you count that guy who brings three smelly hard-boiled eggs on, and knocks them onto the seat to unshell them, one smelly egg at a time.

There's the bigger picture; you let the armrest lady take one for her elbow, but what you get back is non-complaining rights over everything else that you do.

The funny thing is that without saying one single word to one another, we seemed to have reached an agreement we could live with.

And as we got off the plane, hurrying to avoid all the other passengers, I thought we would never speak at all.

But she stopped me after we got off the plane.

"Have a great trip, wherever you're going, miss," she said.

"Same to you," I replied. "It was a pleasure sitting next to you."

You never know, right?

I should have gotten her name so we could connect on LinkedIn.

_____________

All opinions my own.

"Because the son of a bitch that can stop Israel has not been born."



I saw how many they went

Too many of them did not return

Friends separated, houses broken,

Tears of families spilled



Buds of people flowers that didn't flower

The hope in our heads, the love in our hearts, the dream in our spirits so we continue in our path.



The silence has disappeared for it, again sounds of war

Another soldier returns, wrapped in what? In the flag of the country

Blood and tears absorbed by the land

And another shocked mother is left with just a picture

The hope is locked in the heart, the strong nation will not fold over

Because the son of a bitch that can stop Israel has not been born.




Give me the hope to accept what there isn't

The strength to change what there is.

Come let's continue, our life is in front of us

It's not late because tomorrow is a new day

The dream will perish if we lose the hope

So reach out to love.



You promised a dove, in the sky there's a hawk

Brother, poisonous twig pricks, this is not an olive branch

Living in a dream, everybody talks about peace

But they shoot, oppress, pull, squeeze the trigger

In a world of suicide attacks, the people are still talking

Living in an illusion of righteousness,

They widen the rift in the nation.



Pass madness every day in order to survive

Don't want to live in order to fight,

Sub fights in order to live

Plant hope, sends out roots

Shield in my body for the dream

So it won't be shattered to splinters



Enough, enough with the hurt, enough with the tears

A year that the land bleeds not sleeping and why?



Give me the hope to accept what there isn't

The strength to change what there is.



Come let's continue, our life is in front of us

It's not late because tomorrow is a new day

The dream will perish if we lose the hope

So reach out to love



G-d, give me the hope to accept what there isn't

Give me the courage to try to fix the world.

Come let's continue, our life is in front of us

It's not late because tomorrow is a new day

The dream will perish if we lose the hope

So reach out to love



G-d, give me the hope to accept what there isn't

Give me the strength to change what is

Give me the courage to try to fix the world.



Come let's continue, our life is in front of us

It's not late because tomorrow is a new day

The dream will perish if we lose the hope

So reach out to love.


- "Tikvah," Subliminal, English Lyrics

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All opinions my own.

Crowdsourcing The End Of Human Trafficking

Child sex traffickers advertise their victims by taking photographs of the kids in hotel rooms. You can help rescue them.

Here are some fast facts:
  • We don't know exactly how many children are trafficked in the United States each year. A Department of Homeland Security fact sheet, citing the Department of Justice, estimates 100,000-300,000.
  • A 2015 survey of survivors of child sex trafficking found that 63% were advertised or sold using the Internet. (It was conducted by Dr. Vanessa Bouche, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas Christian University, for Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's nonprofit, Thorn.)
  • The survey also found that the survivors were initially trafficked as young as age 5. The average age was 16.
  • Backpage was the most commonly used site for web-based trafficking of victims, followed by Craigslist and Facebook.
  • 50% of child victims are boys, according to research conducted by John Jay College (2008) and cited by Jodie Gummow for Alternet.
Part of the problem with shutting online child sex trafficking down is the language: Traffickers design coded language specifically to evade detection and prosecution. Gummow quotes Tina Frundt, a survivor herself, who assists the FBI in their efforts: 

"Most providers are unfamiliar with the lingo and code words used by pimps and buyers so we’re missing it.”

Tina's ordeal began when her trafficker, nearly 30 years old, lured her in at the age of 13. He "groomed" her by listening to her troubles with seemingly endless patience, building up her trust, until she agreed to travel with him to another state. 

Once there, he and his friends gang-raped her, and she lost her freedom. She had a daily quota to meet, and was raped by up to 18 customers daily to achieve it. Any hope of escape was dashed by regular beatings, including with a baseball bat, having the door slammed on her fingers, and getting burned by cigarettes. She had little hope:

"Not only was I shocked, I was scared. What would happen to me if I did try to leave, and who would believe me if I told them what was going on?"

Eventually Tina was rescued, but that did not come without its cost. She was thrown into juvenile detention--as though she were the criminal and not the victim. 

Reading such stories, one can easily fall into despair at the plight of these children. We feel helpless--there are so many of them--what can we do? 

But it is possible to help, particularly during this holiday season, when many of us are traveling. Just by taking a couple of photos of your hotel room, you can help law enforcement to identify hotels where children are being held.

Making a difference is easy:
1.    Snap 4 photos of your hotel room (no faces, please)
2.    Navigate to https://traffickcam.com/ on your web browser
3.    Email your photos to yourself
4.    Input the name of the hotel you stayed at
5.    Click the camera icon to upload your photos

Of course, nowadays, people are suspicious of initiatives like this. You're probably thinking, "Who is TraffickCam and where are these photos going?" 

According to the Washington Post, the app was developed by Washington University researchers in association with The Exchange Initiative, which offers "resources, information and networking solutions to combat sex trafficking in the United States." EI was formed by Nix Conference & Meeting Management "to empower individuals and organizations with real resources to help end sex trafficking." Here is more information about its leadership.

I visited TheCode.org, a travel industry initiative dedicated to ending child sex tourism, and indeed Nix Conference & Meeting Management is listed as a "top member." Here is a link to their Board of Directors, as well as the entire list of top members for 2015.

There's been positive media coverage by TheNextWebTechCrunch, and more.

The app is still in its early stages, and while "success stories" are not yet available, there is both national and international interest in using this simple yet powerful app.

So this looks like the real deal. And you can make a difference.

Because even in today's polarized world, all of us can agree that one victim of this horrendous crime is one victim too many.
_________________

All opinions my own. Thank you to Joey Seich for making me aware of this app.


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