Monday, March 27, 2023

After having attended the sentencing of Anthony Graziano and Aakash Dalal on Friday, we spent much of the weekend discussing the horror of what we saw and heard. (Apologies to those who practically heard nothing because the judge did not use the microphone.) As Nina sat just feet away from the door that the prisoners used to enter the courtroom, her initial reaction was that they appeared so young. Dalal, in particular, looks not more than 15. Innocent, however, they were not. As the charges of which they had already been convicted were read and the attorneys of the defendants gave their closing argument, it was difficult to listen to the excuses that were given for their behavior. Neither had ever been in trouble with the law before. Graziano, his attorney said, was a follower who followed whatever inane acts his friend told him to do, and Dalal, a known atheist by his friends, apparently hated Judaism. We are not talking about young males growing up in Palestine where they are taught since the time they are walking to hate every Jew they might come in contact with. We are talking about two people who grew up in the New Jersey school system from elementary through high school and on to university. One was studying in Rutgers and the other in Bergen Community College. How can such hate be instilled in a mind so young? We don’t have any answers that could possibly make any sense. As the assistant prosecutor, Brian Sinclair said, “Had they not been caught they would have continued until something horrific happened.” That was obvious when we heard testimony that Dalal had angrily criticized his friend, telling him that “he cannot trust him until he kills a Jew.”

As they had been convicted of terrorism, the minimum sentence of 30 years to life was going to be imposed and the defense lawyers begged for it not to be more. We wondered whether the sentence was rightly deserved or, as we heard others mumble under their breaths exiting the courthouse, “they should have gotten life.” We are not so sure. As far as we can see they have already been given life. Each will be released from prison when they are a minimum of 54 years old. Graziano, in his statement, asked for the chance to live a law-abiding life upon his release. What will he be able to do with his life when he is released at the age of 54? Would a life sentence really make a difference?

Admittedly, this was written on Tisha B’Av, prior to the following two experiences we had later in the day. We had the privilege of seeing the movie “Denial,” which we thank Rabbi Fridman and the Jewish Center of Teaneck for showing late on Tisha B’Av afternoon. When we witnessed the blatant anti-Semitism displayed by David Irving, a well-known World War II historian and blatant Holocaust denier, we slowly began to see things more clearly about what the sentence should have been for these two “young punk” terrorists. Suddenly, yes, it did make a difference whether or not they received a life sentence or a minimum sentence. No one should ever have the right to say and/or think such abysmal thoughts about Jewish people. The seeds of what happened years ago can never be allowed to be planted again anywhere.

Later in the day we watched the magnificent sight of the annual NCSY kumzitz at the Kotel plaza. Led by Rav Tanchum Cohen of Congregation Beth Abraham as a rav at the NCSY kollel program in Eretz Yisrael, our emotions were all over as we cried and kvelled at such a magnificent sight. Hundreds, if not thousands, of young and old, kippah sruga, black hat, no head covering, singing loudly with pride V’l’Yerushalayim ircha b’rachamim tashuv—to Yerushalayim, your city, you will return with mercy. Overwhelmingly the images of so many young people singing so loudly and sincerely gave us the comfort of knowing that the next generation will make sure that nothing as barbarian as young men in the United States or anywhere else trying to strike out Jews will ever be allowed. We have changed our minds. Life should have been the sentence.

By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick


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