Monday, December 22, 2008

A White House Chanuka Without Santa

When captioning the photos I took in the White House on my computer, I decided to refresh my memories by re-reading the souvenir booklet guests received as we departed the Chanuka reception last Monday night. "A Red, White and Blue Christmas: Holidays at the White House 2008" describes the decorations in the main rooms, illustrated in a charming children's-book watercolor style by Peter Catalanotto. I noticed two departures from the printed descriptions that I assume were made in deference to Jewish sensitivities.
In the East Room, the largest room in the White House, "a beautiful creche of terra cotta and carved wood figurines is displayed on the east wall," the booklet notes. "This treasured 18th-century Italian nativity scene, given to the White House by Mrs. Charles W. Engelhard, Jr., has been on display in the East Room every Christmas season since 1967." But not for the Chanuka party.

In fact, I realized that even kindly St. Nick was excused. We know that some Jews, notably members of Chabad, eschew the idea of saints so much they called my prior hometown S. Monica. And so, especially after the recent slaughter of the selfless Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, and with Chabad representatives coming early to "kasher" the White House kitchen for the preparation of the kosher repast, the jolly old elf vacated the premises.

This was especially noticeable on the "one-of-a-kind gingerbread house in the State Dining Room... [of] the southern view of the White House," according to the booklet. "Hundreds of pounds of chocolate, more than 150 gingerbread sheets and countless hours of hard work went into this masterful and delicious creation." The confection looked so sturdy that at first I thought it to be a wooden yule miniature, with its figures of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps marching in front. On top, a white sleigh, led by eight cookie reindeer, was about to land on the roof. And who was commanding the reins? Well, for the Jewish event, its "mascots," little chocolate replicas of pets Barney, Miss Beazley and Willie, had earned a promotion. Santa was nowhere to be seen.

I would not have been at all offended to find Mr. Claus in his vehicle (which, after all, doesn't rely on foreign oil) or even to see the creche, which clearly has historical significance even if it holds no religious meaning for me. I'm not one to say "Happy Holidays" when "Merry Christmas" is the more proper greeting for someone. And in a home where the occupants are Christian, I respect and appreciate their artistry and enjoyment in expressing the beauty of their holiday, which, after all, centers on the birth of Jesus, their Christ, their savior. We were in the midst of dozens of Christmas trees, glittering with colored balls and lights and garlands. While the adjustments to two of their decorations was out of courtesy, greatly appreciated, I do think all who attended would have felt just as honored were they in their usual places.

An additional gift to guests was a copy of President Bush's Hanukkah Greeting (his spelling) that says, "During the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah, we remember the ancient struggle for freedom. More than 21 centuries ago, a cruel tyrant ruled Judea and forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion. A small band of brothers called the Maccabees came together to liberate their land and reclaim the Holy Temple."

Well, it was a bit more complicated than that...including the fact that the battle was even more a civil war between those Jews who would assimilate into the Hellenistic culture, and those who defended God's laws. It was less a "struggle for freedom" than a stand against "tolerance" and "diversity" in favor of adherence to a Torah that was decidedly different and not very elastic. Also, while Judah, of the priestly Hasmonean clan, son of the Hasmonean leader Mattathias, was called "Maccabee" (which means "hammer"), we also learn that the Hebrew letters spelling Maccabee, mem chaf bet yud, inscribed on his shield, were an acronym for the phrase "mi chamocha eilim hashem," which means, "Who among all gods is like You?"

We also received a beautiful copy of the President's remarks to the members of the Israeli Knesset, delivered May 15, 2008. If you haven't read this excellent speech, you should.

Tonight is the second night of Chanuka. We lit our menorahs (one per member of our family) in the window of our den, where (theoretically, at least) neighbors for several miles who look up to the hill on which we live could see the candles burning, publicizing the miracle that God not only gave the Jews the Torah, but continued to honor His covenants to sustain the Jewish people and prevent their extinction. The miracle of Chanuka, the light on the darkest days of the year, reminded Jews through generations of persecution that God will rescue them. And we, so privileged to live in this greatest nation on God's green earth, must remember what saved them and will sustain us--resolute determination to pursue God's will.

I don't think we'll be invited to another White House Chanuka party for awhile, but at least this time I captured some of it in photos, and certainly vividly in my mind. We're headed out of snowy Seattle for a few days; not exactly a vacation since my husband will be working, but for us a long-anticipated family time and, oh yes! some sunshine! To my Jewish friends, Chanuka Sameach! And to my Christian friends, a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Moved to Tears: "Am Yisroyel Chai" in the White House

Time to flip over all the cards about the crowning event of the White House Chanuka party. I've got lots more observations, but I want to share with you something that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

My son and I watched with pleasure as the Marines Orchestra performed specially-prepared Chanuka medleys, all the traditional songs. They also roused us with a clip-clop, neeeeigh! version of Sleigh Ride, as well as several classical selections. At the end of the evening, as the uniformed Marines who were the White House hosts herded attendees toward the exits, the orchestra concluded with some lively Jewish music that started women dancing the hora in a circle. Traditionally, men and women dance separately, at weddings sometimes so frenetically that the entire room smells of Eau de Perspiration and revelers are wiping their wet countenances with startched cloth napkins.

As the women danced joyously, they were overtaken by the men, led by, among others, my son. The music reached its crescendo and applause...but then the men took over, singing and dancing words that touched me, right there in the White House: "Am Yisroyal chai!" "L'Shana ha ba Yerusalayim!" The Jewish people LIVE! Next year in Jerusalem! The simcha (joy) with the women clapping time and the men jumping and whirling reminded me just how blessed we are in America, the land founded on ideas, primary among which is love and closeness to God. Here's my little video of the beginning of the dancing...

The White House Chanuka celebration I wasn't Invited to...

Click here for the White House video of the ceremony preceding the Chanuka party I attended. President Bush celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel as well as Chanuka with a little speech. Then the menorah is lit, with a symbolic blessing (since Chanuka won't begin until Sunday night) by the grandsons of President Truman, who received the menorah, and Israel's first prime minister Ben-Gurion. This was indeed the menorah that I took pictures of...and because it has squat little candles inside glass holders, assumed was lit by electricity! Oops!
You'll also hear the group Kol Zimra, with my friend Sam Glaser (the tall guy on the far right in the video). After an interesting event I'll describe in my post tomorrow, my son was asked to join the group! You can read the text of President Bush's remarks (which were distributed to guests, including us, at party's end) here.

Mr. Bush was the first and only President to host a White House Chanuka reception. A topic of discussion with fellow party-goers was whether President-elect Obama will continue the annual event. Most of those to whom I spoke thought he'd have to--but then does that mean there will be an annual Muslim holiday event, too? How about a plaque-presentation by the atheists dissing all religious observances (like we have in our Washington state capitol)? Or will Obama, who has in the past said he favors dividing Jerusalem, choose not to honor America's friendship with Jews and Israel?

By the way, the spelling of Chanuka in English is a phonetic approximation of the Hebrew word, so whatever spelling you like, works. I use the "Ch" to represent the throat sound of the letter Chaf. Some people don't even bother with that non-English sound and just use an "H". I have no idea why some spellings have a double "k."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chanuka in the White House

Just got back from my whirlwind trip to DC for the President's Chanuka party. So quick it seems like a dream. I'm always amazed and awed that we can step into a metal tube, sit down with a book, a newspaper or just a blow-up neck pillow and emerge in just a few hours on the other side of the country.

I'll post more later, but I gave much thought to my golden moments of conversation with the President. Realizing that I was there not really because of what I've done, but because of my husband's accomplishments, I first said that he regretted that his book tour kept him from attending. I said the name of the new book, and the President lit up and replied, "I've got to get a copy; I want to read that book!" and asked how my husband was. After my son shook his hand, the President told him, "Your father's a good man!" I then added that I wanted to thank him for keeping our nation safe since 9-11. He was most gracious. As was Mrs. Bush, who took my hand in both of hers, and looked me in the eye--not a perfunctory pass, but a pause, as I told her "Thank you Mrs. Bush; I appreciate all you do." She thanked me and said "Happy Chanuka." I remember during the photo that the President had his arm loosely behind my back--and so I (awkwardly, without touching, really,) reached behind his, thinking I might be making a faux pas.

It seemed this time that the guests dressed a bit less formally (I'll admit it: I wore the same outfit I wore last time, but with comfy shoes) and that the buffets laid on tables in several rooms were a bit less lavish than the first Chanuka party I'd attended in 2006. Not that the occasion was diminished by it--but I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that this might be a small acknowledgement of the economic situation.

Rather than the four types of latkes (small veggie pancakes) we enjoyed last visit, this time there was just traditional potato-onion, each the size of a half-dollar. In case you're interested, the rest of the main course buffet included: rolled slices of lox, the most delicious white flaky fish, small riblets from lamb (I was told) with the meat pushed down to one end (no knives were offered, so I supposed we were to eat the meat off by lifting bone to lip), some kind of sliced beef (brisket?), and rolled stuffed slices of white meat turkey. There was a veggie and lettuce salad, and a grilled vegetable tray with olives.
One cannot complain about such a generous spread at the White House. At the dessert tables, there were chocolate truffle balls, small fruit tarts, tiny sufganiot (doughnuts, filled with custard rather than the traditional jelly), a chocolate-frosted white cake, and tiered tray of various cookies. Now you know the entire repast. My memory was of waiters bringing tray after tray to replace depleted tables throughout the 2 1/2 hour event.

The White House was decorated in its Christmas finery. The theme was "a red, white and blue Christmas," though wouldn't that always be de rigeur? In the center of Blue Room was a huge tree with fat ornaments representing each state; in the other halls, and we had free roam of about six large rooms upstairs, were other live trees more modestly attired in bows or round glass balls. Holly garlands were everywhere; red velvet ribbons and holiday trinkets in every nook.

Music was beautifully supplied first by a 20-voice men's acapella choir called Kol Zimra (among whom was popular singer Sam Glaser, a friend of ours) and then by the excellent Marines Orchestra; they each performed every traditional Chanuka piece in the repertoire.

I did think it odd (as I did on my first visit) that for a Chanuka party, the tables were festooned with red tablecloths and small fir or topiary trees with glass ornaments. Though Mr. and Mrs. Bush both wore blue, the rest of the environment was completely in Christmas colors. The only nod to the occasion in the decor was a small silver menorah on a windowsill, and a larger one with all "candles" ablaze (with electric lights) in the oval entry at the top of the stairs. Our friend Sam told us that prior to the party, in a small reception where his group entertained, the President and Mrs. Bush presided over a "menorah lighting" by the grandsons of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister (Clifton Truman Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer), who together lit a menorah given by their grandfather to President Truman. This was clearly symbolic--Chanuka doesn't start until Sunday night.
As you can see, I did bring my camera, though I stupidly left my spare battery behind. I've got some surprises about the evening yet to share...but it's quite late and I've got to get my son to school early...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More than a Salute

When I saw this photo in my local Seattle Times today (it's from yesterday's paper--AP photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari), it brought a tear to my eye. Here's the caption: "President Bush kisses Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Marc E. Olson, of Coal City, Ill., on Tuesday at the White House. At left is Lance Cpl. Patrick Paul Pittman Jr., of Savannah, Ga. The two Marines were hurt when a suicide bomber attacked their entry-control point in Ramadi, Iraq. Pittman, who uses a wheelchair, stood for the photo with Bush. The two were serving with Company A, 2nd Amphibian Assault Battalion attached with the 2nd Batallion, 9th Marines."
My heart and gratitude goes to the Marines. And next week I get to shake the hand of this President. Look at his face. I am truly moved.

What Should I Say to the President?

I was hoping this might come through--an invitation to the White House! THAT White House, the one soon to be occupied by Barack and Michelle.

The Bushes are hosting a Chanuka party next week, and I'll be there, with my son as my escort (my husband being busy on book tour).

This is not the first time President and Laura have invited me--two years ago my husband and I excitedly attended the Chanuka festivities, an evening that now in my mind is the kind of twinkly blur that children carry of the glint of glass balls and sparkle of tinsel that comprises the essence of December magic.

Last time, however, I made a couple of mistakes. Firstly, I decided to take the advice of my fashion-forward teen daughter and borrow her very high-heeled shoes. Little did I know the amount of walking one needs to do from the security checkpoint up the long drive to the imposing columned porch, down the receiving hallway and into the inner sanctum of the living quarters. I was not only wobbling, but shortly, limping, the ill-fitting pumps slipping off my heels. I was in pain while being serenaded by a military orchestra, and tottering between room-length buffets of kosher delicacies, the likes of which I'd never fathomed, despite years of Passover resort getaways. (Most vivid in my mind were the tables of pastries so intricately assembled, petits-four drawn with Stars of David or dreidls or other mini-artworks, swirled with chocolate or raspberry or whipped cream so sculpted you'd think it had to be fake.)

My second mistake was in thinking that security would surely prohibit visitors from bringing in their cameras--so I left mine in my hotel. Wrong, wrong, wrong. While other guests were happily snapping photographic remembrances of each heirloom ornament and thrilling encounter with friends and dignitaries, I internally fumed, mentally kicking myself with pointed, painful stiletto at every glimpse of another once-in-a-lifetime-seen artifact, or introduction to someone I'd previously only read about in the newspaper.

Each couple or guest could line up for a photo with the President and First Lady, and the preceding moments allowed a personal greeting and a few exchanged words with the POTUS. Such an opportunity! As I stood in queue, inching forward, adrenaline rising, I kept revising what I would say. "Thank you for all you do for Israel and the Jewish people" was far too unoriginal. "We appreciate you," way too obvious. When it was finally my turn, Mr. Bush took my hand, I looked him in the eye and...what did I say? "Please come to us for Shabbat! We'd be honored if you and Mrs. Bush would come to our home for a Sabbath meal."

I instantly felt very stupid.

To my relief, he not only smiled, but said yes, he'd like to do that. Perhaps when he's got more free time, after January 20, he'll fulfill that acceptance. And now I've got a chance not only to remind him, but to schedule it.

Um, probably not. However, I better start planning what I'm going to say when I see President and Mrs. Bush at the Chanuka party, right now. Any suggestions?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Solution for the Economy: Print Money--right?

OK, OK, I'm really consumed by this economy thing. I just heard Ben Stein say something OUTRAGEOUS to my fave radio host, who was quoting an article saying the federal government doesn't just "have" money; all its funds are taken from somewhere else, like taxpayers, or borrowed from China.

Ben Stein said, "that's easy to dispense with, because it's simply not true. The government can just print more money."

I was going nuts at that--thinking, OK, so there are rooms full of piles of money. What does the government DO with it? It's useless unless it's part of a transaction--somebody has to provide some product or service to earn it, and then somebody has to use it to buy something, right?

Wrong. Government can simply give it away! Good old Government, my favorite uncle! My sugar Daddy! Ben Stein said that if the government wants to do some massive program, they'll just print the money or notes or checks and give it out! Nobody has to pay it back. Nobody has to DO anything for it. It can "bail out" delinquent car companies or defaulting sub-prime mortgage homeowners, or perhaps even be "used" for projects, just like Roosevelt after the Great Depression did(who cares if that exacerbated the problem instead of solving it?).

The Government has unlimited funds! I'm finally educated. And now I wonder why the government even NEEDS our taxes.

Ben Stein said that putting too much fabricated money out there is terribly inflationary. Gee, in a country as big as ours, if we just put out the few billions it takes to run things, who'd notice? We could all be busy generating lots and lots MORE money, making our economy explode with productivity, if there were no taxes!!

Tell me where I'm wrong. I've got to get back to cooking for Shabbat--it comes in at 4 pm in the winter!!

Gypped out of Goodies from Government

Things seem out of whack. Naomi Wolf, who was not long ago a gracious guest in our home for Shabbat but not at all on our page politically, apparently has a new tome coming out about how America is ruined and has gone Fascist. My first reaction: That's why Obama won?

Then, I'm moving the newspaper off the kitchen island so I can make my weekly challah, and I see the New York Times' Business Day section, headlined, "Washington's New Tack: Helping Home Buyers." Before reading the article, I said to myself (I talk aloud to myself, my most approving audience): "Nobody ever expected the government to help buy a house before." Actually, I was feeling cheated, because it used to be that if you couldn't afford to buy a home, your parents "helped" or you just didn't get one until you could afford it. Then, if you lost your job or for whatever reason couldn't make the payments, you sold the house or, if you were a deadbeat and missed payments, you lost your house to the mortgage-holder.

I read the article, and sure enough, the Feds know that those of us chumps who bought our houses under the "old rules" would resent the newbies who get their goodies: "...the new focus on helping individuals could create a bitter split between those who want to buy homes and those who already own them." Yeah, I want one of those Treasury Department "30-year, fixed-rate mortgages at rates far lower than most Americans have ever seen" that will only be available to new homebuyers, not refinancers! Why have my husband and I been working so hard to pour so much interest into the hands of those 'greedy bankers'? We pay taxes--lots! We want our share of them BACK!

My gosh, I thought Pres. Bush was in favor of free markets. Doesn't that include allowing a free-fall in real estate? We know Roosevelt's programs to stop the Great Depression backfired (see Amity Shlaes). I think this is an extreme example of the "Do-Something Disease" my husband talks about. The role of the federal government has morphed from organizing states and providing basic national services (defense, insuring national transportation) into the Great Daddy who has to come through when his kids (in this case, realtors) get in trouble. But the good kids who do everything right? We're stuck with hundreds of dollars more in monthly mortgage payments. What is this???

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Do I think Jews are superior?

Perhaps it's gauche to write a post about comments on previous posts. On hugely popular sites, comment threads take on lives of their own, with adversarial discourse zinged between readers unafraid to be rude and bold, often hidden behind blogger monikers (like Northern Light...).

My blog, however, is...a very personal expression. When I got a comment from Jim Page thrashing me as arrogant and xenophobic, both of which I try very hard not to be, I was surprised. I answered. Then I received an encouraging response from a reader named Miriam that I want to respond to here, as I have more to say than merely the few words I'd put in a comment.

After Jim stridently suggested that the Mumbai atrocities were just another example of "religious fundamentalism" like "Witch hunts, Inquisitions, Mormon Indian killers, Zionist shock troops, and so on," Miriam noted that historic horrific behavior was not condoned by the God of the Bible or faithful adherents, who protested them.

Actually, there's plenty of God-commanded slaughter in the Bible. The difference is that God was specific in what He wanted--applied to only those particular peoples, at that time. And never again. There's nothing even remotely similar to ongoing "jihad" in the Bible.

Even though you could say the Crusades were murderous, and that each of the seven had complex aims, generally the medieval volunteers were spurred by religious fervor--to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims, or otherwise further the glory of Jesus and the God of the Bible. Thomas Madden in "The Crusades" suggests that they were defensive wars against Muslim aggressors. That doesn't excuse the massacre of Jews that occurred along the way, or forced conversions (by Christians or Muslims) on pain of death. But, the Crusades were never biblically mandated or suggested, and in the eight hundred years or so since then, the same religion that sprouted them (Roman Catholicism) has changed from a political force to a solely religious one, and condemns violence on behalf of faith.

Crusades were then; with Mumbai, we're talking here-and-now. Radical Islam is the only religion now that advocates killing off all its competition.

Miriam responded to Jim's claim that I'm "despicably xenophobic" for saying Jews (and Americans) stand out on the world stage.

She replies that Jews "aren't the Chosen People because they are better than everyone else (hence no reason for feeling 'superior'). Rather they are Chosen because God wills it so. Singled out for His blessings and singled out for the world's curses."

Well, I can't say God chose us for special blessings (pogroms, the holocaust, and multiple exiles belie that), but for special (added) responsibility. We seem to suffer when collectively we eschew or ignore the 613 mitzvot (commandments) we're charged to fulfill. We're supposed to try to understand rational purposes for the commandments, but do them simply out of subservience to God, even if we don't understand.

Many of the commandments are inconvenient, some majorly so. I did a post last Passover expressing my frustration with some of out all eensy vestiges of leavened products from my kitchen being right up there. You can say we who believe in God and think we get close to Him by abiding by all these rules are stupid. Or misguided. Or backward. But enduring endless persecution, discrimination and, even in America blessedly free from those, the burden of the obligations, surely could not give Jews any feelings of superiority.

Different question: Do I think my religion is superior to other religions? Sure. For me. Otherwise, why bother?

I'd guess Jim Page has the view that religion is at best worthless and at worst destructive. Not just that people can behave worthlessly and destructively, but that the actual basis of all religion is harmful.

But given the number of people who are inspired, uplifted, consoled and restrained from wrongdoing every single day by religion, you'd have to say that over all, the pursuit of it enriches life and provides a useful standard of behavior. If you balance the positive and negative effects of religion, the balance tips decisively toward the positive.

Back to the Mumbai murders at the Jewish outreach center, Chabad. I do think that Muslims have a particular hatred for Jews because of their conflicting belief about Ismael versus Isaac. Jews are not regular infidels, but ones who pervert what they believe to be the truth.

And Rabbi and Rivke Holtzberg of Mumbai were selected not simply because of anti-Semitism but in awareness that Jews have a world-wide significance beyond their numbers, a prominence that brings huge publicity and focus on the terrorists' acts. The bad guys wanted this.

No organization is more globally visible in its programs and education in Torah observance than Chabad. More than any other Jewish group, Chabad brings traditional piousness to out-of-the-way places, through the cheerful self-sacrifice of its emissaries (called "schluchim," Hebrew for "messengers"). This "encroachment" inflames extremist Muslims. So does the existence of Israel. They want to stomp out both.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai Terrorism--Emotion and a Spiritual Response

I may be the last person to be adding to a blogosphere vibrating with emotion about the apalling terrorist murders in Mumbai.
The horrifying carnage waged by those who believe their despicable acts glorify their god--and are even commanded by their god--leave all sane and civilized people in mourning and shock.

A point made by my favorite talk show host today, however, was different, and struck me. Fave Host was talking about a blog post by Commentary Magazine and NYTimes columnist Max Boot for Nov. 29, in which he suggests that by now, terrorist attacks in India are so common as to earn barely a mention in the Western press.

The Host added that in order to gain the notoreity and importance the killers desired--in order to force the world to take notice--they selected Americans and Jews as their targets. Even if their aim was to foment friction or war between India, a Democratic power, and Pakistan, a goal that did not include the United States or Israel specifically.

Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International Editor and a native of Mumbai, said in an interview that he thought disaffected Indian Muslims, left behind in the current economic boom, were recruited by outside groups, probably trained in Pakistan. The name offered by those claiming responsibility, the Deccan Mujahedeen, is unfamiliar to terrorist experts.

But while the perpetrators and their purposes are sorted out, we on the sidelines--who can barely stomach the details and watch reports through cracks between fingers we lift to block our eyes--are personally affected by the horror. Americans in India are not just citizens of any foreign country, who happen to be there. The Jews of Chabad House were not just any religious workers selflessly bringing services and solace in an emerging land. Both Americans and Jews stand out on the world stage as much more.

Americans represent the freedom and diversity that Islam seeks to quash. The wealth and upward mobility that extremist Muslims rue. We represent a free press and instant, constant news. Command the airwaves, command the blogosphere, and you have power.

Jews symbolize all of that and more. Historically attacked, isolated, and destroyed partially because communication is central to the religion, Jews are the opposite of diversity--representing unity, in a direction that jihadist Muslims despise. Jews are as completely "not them" as any people can be. And hated all the more because the Jewish connection to God is via a brother and more importantly, a rival, of a figurehead of their religion. Where Abraham is shared by both Judaism and Islam, the Koran claims that Ishmael, the son of Abraham's concubine/wife Hagar, is the inheritor of the Godly mantle. The Torah, of course, shows Isaac as the descendant God favors, one of the "fathers" of Jewish thought and practice.

Rabbi Gabriel and his wife Rivka Holtzberg, 28 years old with five years invested in Mumbai creating a haven of Jewish worship, study and practice surrounded by a cacophony of alien philosophies and religions, were a natural target. For Muslim extremists, The rival is here and must not prosper.

This very physical battle in Mumbai was a victory for the terrorists, whose free reign in the face of unarmed police and few barriers is a grim warning about the importance of weapons for those who keep peace, and a reminder that Americans dare not become complacent.

But more than that, this is a spiritual battle, and on that front, the values and Godly connection of Americans and Jews worldwide need not lose. The response of the Chabad Jewish outreach organization to the tragedy is to urge Jews to take on a new mitzvah, to draw closer to God by fulfilling more of His commandments, with a more fervent spirit. This is a response with a different type of weapon. The kind that suicide murderers cannot combat, no matter what they try to do.