Aakash Dalal apologizes

A day has not passed in the past five years that I have not thought of the events that unfolded in December 2011 and January 2012 — the events that evoked memories of a sad past for members of the Jewish community in Bergen County and the events that have forever changed my life and my way of thinking. Living in solitary confinement in the Bergen County Jail for these past five years has given me an opportunity to re-evaluate my short life and the negative views I held many years ago at the age of 19.

As a teenager, it was wrong of me to think of certain religions and faiths in an unfavorable light. I have grown from being a childish teenager to an adult and gained a different perspective and learned to respect, appreciate, and value the diverse community that we live in — especially during my current incarceration, where I have come to interact with individuals from many different religions.

The past five years in prison have been a learning experience. I have matured and come to appreciate the value of human life and freedom. I deeply regret that I face the prospect of spending the formative years of my life behind bars and that I may never have the chance to start a family and have children. I realize that I was blessed with the opportunity to have a higher education and will not have a chance to complete my college degree and be a working professional contributing to society.

I also deeply regret that I am no longer in a position to take care of my parents as they age and as their only child. They have nobody to depend on after having spent their life savings to support and defend me.

I have lived m Bergen County my entire life and in 2010 I moved to New Brunswick to attend Rutgers University. I would return to Lodi, where I grew up, every weekend to visit my loving mother and father. At Rutgers, I became friends with numerous members of the Jewish faith, attended various religious events at the Chabad building on College Avenue with them, and routinely socialized with them.

In December 2011 and January 2012, I worked on the Republican presidential primary campaign of former U.S. Congressman Ron Paul. I was a student volunteer for the campaign in New Hampshire. Congressman Ron Paul’s campaign coordinators would make speeches against Israel and the Jewish faith in an effort to incite and inflame campaign volunteers, many of who were, like me, teenagers.

I now understand the rhetoric of Congressman Paul’s staff to be nonsense with no basis in fact.

However, at the age of 19, I was drawn to campaign because of Congressman Paul’s mainstream policies. I eventually came to learn that anti-Semitism was intertwined with the political positions of Congressman Paul’s campaign. The anti-Semitic and anti-government statements and writings attributed to me in early 2012 were immature reactions to a politician whose inflammatory campaign rhetoric would blur the boundaries between right and wrong. They do not reflect what I hold to be true today nor do they reflect the values that have been instilled in me by my family.

This is a sentiment that was relayed to me by an elderly individual I met in prison. The man was a former attorney and the founder of a Jewish foundation and had been incarcerated in the same prison unit as me and we had numerous conversations. He had been aware of the charges against me and had been following along with news reports of the case. He explained that his parents were Holocaust survivors and informed me of the lessons that he had learned as a result. He also advised me to reach out to the Jewish community between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because of his firm belief that the Jewish people are very reasonable and that they believe in redemption and forgiveness and to ask for that forgiveness directly from them.

My mother and father have suffered tremendously as a result of my time in prison and will continue to suffer emotionally as their only child remains locked away. I have been unable to see my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends in these past years and I will unlikely be able to see them any time soon.

My family’s suffering has allowed me to empathize with the congregants of the affected synagogues. Rabbi Neil Schuman and Patricia Schuman, in particular, and others have clearly been subjected to emotional pain and trauma caused by events that never should have occurred. I can understand their anger and frustration.

Over these past five years in prison, in conditions that can only be described as torture, I have been repeatedly assaulted and threatened. My health has deteriorated, but my heart has healed. I hold no hate or grudges towards members of any faith. Spending these years behind bars. I have seen the destruction and pain caused by violent crimes and have had much time to reflect on the consequences of crime on humanity. I hope that you will give me an opportunity to contribute to society, complete my education, and have a family as I truly would cherish the chance to put my bad choices in my teenage years behind me and become a productive member of our community.

Aakash Dalal
Hackensack

EDITOR’S NOTE: In November, the writer was found guilty of 17 counts, including terrorism, for his role in masterminding the attacks on Bergen County synagogues in December 2011 and January 2012. His sentence has not yet been handed down.

Obama’s cloak is off now

When the U.S. abstained in the vote in the U.N. demanding the end of Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and areas that were under Jordanian occupation after the 1948 War of Independence, Obama did not “rebuke” Israel but spit in the face of Netanyahu, the people of Israel and Jewish people everywhere.

I was not surprised by his actions, just that he did not vote for the anti-Israel resolution. He finally took off the cloak hiding his true colors. I wonder how many “man hours” were spent finding a quote from a Republican to be used to justify his actions. It is interesting to remember how Obama negated the letter sent to the Israelis by President Bush acknowledging that certain areas where Israel had built settlements could remain in Israeli hands after a treaty was signed.

There are no “international laws” that can be quoted showing what Israel has been in violation of, when building in the disputed territories. Read the resolution ending the 1967 war and you will find it stated that Israel is obligated to withdraw from “territories” after bilateral negotiations take place, not “all territories.” It was understood that the armistice lines that had separated the Jewish state from the proposed Arab state would be moved.

It will be interesting what other anti-Israel actions Obama will take since there is nothing and no political reason not to do so. Perhaps by this latest action, Obama has guaranteed that Trump will move the Embassy of the U.S. into the capital of Israel, Jerusalem. I would also not be surprised if Netanyahu announces further building in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.

Howard J. Cohn
New Milford

U.N.’s vote is disgraceful

President Obama once again has shown how petty he can be with the vote at the U.N. condemning Israel for building settlements. Instead of permitting our U.N. representative to use the veto, he directed her to abstain, thus giving the terrorists another bullet in their guns.

Israel’s borders are almost indefensible as they currently stand. The middle of the country is so narrow an Arab fighter jet could cross it in a minute or two. Over the years Israel has been coerced into conceding land in order to placate the so-called “Palestinians.” On the other hand these people, who lay claim to a country that never existed, have not been willing to concede the one thing Israel has asked: The right to be recognized as a nation and to be able to live in peace.

While the countries of the U.N. have never hesitated to pass resolutions condemning Israel, there is scant recognition of the never-ending rocket assaults from terror groups. There is no response to attacks on schools, nurseries and shopping centers. While the shaheed is a hero to the Palestinians, they are a nonentity to the U.N.

While Israelis work and develop modern science and medicine, the Arab schools teach children to hate. They use military uniforms, hand guns and explosives to children and school them on mock raids to kill Jews. They strap their children into explosive vests and send them out to be martyrs.

The so-called Palestinians demand East Jerusalem as their capital. Yet nowhere in their history is there a connection to the city or any part of it.

Barack Hussein Obama is a disgrace and a coward. He waited until his term in office only had less than a month before expiring to commit this cowardly act in the U.N. in order to avoid continuing criticism. Lack of support for Israel is not anti-Semitism. But lack of support for our only ally in that part of the world is insanity. Obama has shown his disregard for both the Jewish people and an ally and has given that nation’s enemies fodder to continue to wage war.

Bob Nesoff
New Milford

Hawks and doves at a party

In “A tale of two Chanukah parties” (December 23), there was a report of two conflicting Chanukah parties in Washington. This rancor crystallizes the risky position in which the Jewish world now finds itself. In one corner are the “hawks.” In the other corner are the “doves.” In between, there is just emptiness, a blank mat upon which a wrestling match is waiting to break out. Surely, this cannot reflect reality. Surely, there are moderates who do, or did, occupy the middle ground. But they are just unwilling to go public now, for fear of being attacked from both corners. And in the “hawk” corner lies the full force of the next American government.

The “hawk” Chanukah party, conducted by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, celebrated the military victory of the Maccabees 2,200 years ago. But in that celebration lies the seed of forgetfulness. The Maccabees were insurgents in a civil war. The effect of their victory was to replace the Seleucid regime of Hellenized Jews with a new Hasmonean dynasty. Judah and his country bumpkins displaced the ruling city elite. A period of corruption and civil war (Pharisees vs. Sadducees) resulted. Rome stepped into the void, and only 200 years later, the Jews were expelled from their ancestral homelands. Thus began the diaspora, which was to last two millennia, until the dawn of the 20th century and Theodore Herzl’s dream.

The festival of Chanukah today is the result of the interplay of popular need to have lights in a dark season (with pagan overtones), the echo of a short-lived military victory, and our sages’ attempts to rationalize observance so as to not memorialize atrocities committed by Jew against Jew. And so we bless the lights, not the Maccabees. We bless Hashem, not the Kohen Gadol. We do not include the Books of the Maccabees in Tanach. And we sing of Maoz Tsur, a stronghold of rock that refers to Hashem, and not to humans. The rabbis crystallized what should be our view of Chanukah, as “Not by Might, but by Right,” a paraphrasing of the prophet Zechariah.

American Jews, represented by the Conference of Presidents, must remember what our sages taught. And then we must apply these lessons to our own time. It is entirely possible that a new Judah Maccabee, a modern American hammer, has arisen in our midst. The promise of military conquest is alluring. But Jewish history has proven time and again that war is not the answer. The Chanukah party which occurred at the White House, the one attended by the family of Shimon Peres, is the party of my choice.

Eric Weis
Wayne

A vote for Friedman

David Friedman is an ideal choice for our ambassador to Israel. Hopefully he will be approved by congress with a minimal debate and very few negative votes. He has three very important attributes. First, he has empathy for the Jewish state and is knowledgeable about the dangers facing it. Second, he has expressed many times, his desire that finally a U.S. president will move our embassy to the true capital of Israel, namely Jerusalem, with the Knesset and all the government offices in that city. Third, he is being vigorously opposed by J Street, with a reputation for not being pro-Israel.

It is about time that the U. S. acknowledges that Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. This would be a commitment fulfilled by our government.

Nelson Marans
New York, N.Y.

He likes Friedman, doesn’t like rabbis

Mr. Kampeas’s articles are one-sided and factually untrue most of the time. His statements regarding Israel show his leftish bent. “71% of American Jews who voted for Hillary Clinton” is an example of a fictitious statistic. David Friedman’s nomination was received with great elation by the people of Israel according to all Israeli news releases. In evaluating American Jews’ reaction, what were the sources of his conclusions. The person’s quoted were opinions of Hillary voters who never polled their constituencies but gave personal opinions. Mr. Friedman has not assumed his post and already negativity from the left. His relations with Israel over the years illustrate his devotion to his fellow Jews. By quoting those who voted for Hillary Clinton, his bias is apparent. Every article in the Standard under his byline shows his prejudice toward the very liberal line. To be fair, why aren’t articles from the conservative view found in your publication?

It is also apparent that rabbis are your gods. The reality is that most are hirelings that spout the line of those who hired them or act like they were God’s emissaries on earth. We ordinary Jews who bear the stigma of being “am haaretz” are ignored athough some of use are more in tune with God than they profess to be!

Shel Haas
Fort Lee