Rabbi Steven Burg with Rep. Holt
Holt – A Mature Political Thinker and Intellect
President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “I am neither bitter nor cynical but I do wish there was less immaturity in political thinking.” Yet, all too often when we turn on the TV we see men and women screaming at each other and splitting hairs on what seem to be irrelevant issues. One must wonder whether there are men and woman of valor left in the halls of Congress.
About two years ago, I was walking out of the Rayburn Building in Washington when I almost collided with a distinguished looking gentleman who turned out to be such a man.
He was NJ Congressman Rush Holt, and the person I was with knew him and introduced us. We launched into a long conversation, and I realized he was different when we discussed the treatment of the remains of serviceman, some of which were treated deplorably. Congressman Holt was passionate about the ethical and moral treatment of these heroes. I explained how his position corresponded to Jewish law and that in Israel there is an organization called ZAKA that is dedicated to making sure the total dignity of those deceased as a result of warfare are preserved. We promised to stay in touch. And as I walked away, I was left with an indelible impression that I had finally met someone who was in politics for all the right reasons.
Although I realized from our meeting that he had a terrific moral compass, Congressman Holt, I did not know that he had a Ph.d. in physics from New York University. His thesis was “Calcium Absorption Lines and Solar Activity: A Systematic Program of Observations.”
I learned that for two years the Congressman headed the Nuclear and Scientific Division of the Office of Strategic Forces at the U.S. Department of State and clearly understood the ramifications and physics of the nuclear debate. In fact, a bumper sticker commonly seen in Congressman Holt’s district reads: My congressman IS a rocket scientist!
I needed to know more about him, so I reached out to meet in New Jersey where our conversation would be less pressed and more informal. Immediately, his staff insisted that we he we meet in a kosher Dunkin’ Donuts, although it was outside his district.
We talked about Israel and the many challenges that she faces. Congressman Holt was clearly knowledgeable about the issues and was steadfast in his support. I was fascinated to learn that Congressman Holt was the chairman of the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, an outgrowth of the 9/11 Commission. We spoke about the importance of intelligence and how to provide oversite without compromising the mission. Congressman Holt’s academic approach to Washington and how he analyzed every situation by weighing both sides. His intellectual honesty was astounding to me.
Then Congressman Holt invited me to the Yom HaShoah Days of Remembrance Ceremony in the Rotunda. He asked me to meet him in his office prior to the event so we could walk over together. Anyone who has ever attended that ceremony understands how impressive it is, with the presentation of the more than 60 flags of all the armed forces battalions that had been involved with liberating concentration camps, a reminder of America’s crucial role as liberators, a role that we, Americans, must never forget.
I looked around, and although I saw congressional leadership present, I did not see many members of Congress. I inquired about the lack of attendance and was told that due to the hectic schedule Congressmen keep, it was difficult for them to attend. I asked Congressman Holt if he came long just to get us in, but he said he comes every year to remind himself of the critical role the United States played in the liberation of the camps. His response moved me and knew that all I had sensed about Congressman Holt was right on target.
On the way back to his office we talked about the plague of bullying, especially over the Internet. He has proposed legislation on it, and when we got to his office, he gave me a copy of the bill. This gesture showed that he is obviously concerned about this problem and has put many hours into trying to solve it.
I’ve taken the time to put my thoughts down, because as a community, many of us have not had the opportunity to personally engage with Congressman Holt. I believe we would all benefit tremendously if we reached out to him. I know that my life has been enriched as a result of our friendship and I know the same will hold true for others.
I believe President Roosevelt would consider Congressman Holt one of the “mature” political thinkers of our time. That is due to the Congressman’s overpowering intellect coupled with his large heart and a moral compass that always points to the core, sensible values of this great nation.
Rabbi Steven Burg
Quoting Failed Messiah?
I was amazed that in your article by Rabbi Lamm you quoted Shmarya Rosenberg the webmaster of False Messiah. That website is full of hatred for Judaism. Why would you want to give it any publicity? He is a very sick individual. Although there are articles which are true, there are many, many that are either completely false or accusatory and defame people without any proof. Just because a website says something doesn’t mean it’s true. I’m pretty sure you would not quote from a Nazi or similar hate-filled website even if it supported a certain viewpoint that you want to bring out. As an editor of a Jewish publication catering to a Jewish population, you have a certain responsibility.
About Ice Cream on Grand
Thank you so much for the excellent article about ICE CREAM ON GRAND in last week’s issue. However, it did not mention that the store is under the kosher supervision of KOF-K (cholov stam) and has been for a good number of years. The proprietors are especially accommodating to our local schools. Kudos for a well written, interesting publication. Best wishes for your continued success.