By Ben Packer
Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt’l, in a meeting with a group of American businessmen, including Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, explained the essential lesson of the Holocaust. As quoted by Mr. Schultz: “As they went into the area to sleep (in the concentration camps), only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, ‘Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?’”
And Rabbi Finkel says, “It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others.”
And with that, he stood up and said, “Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people” (Aish.com).
And now this:
“Starbucks has been and remains a non-political organization. We do not support any political or religious cause. Additionally, neither Starbucks nor the company’s chairman, president, and CEO Howard Schultz, provide financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army in any way.”
Was that last line really necessary? Was the issue not sufficiently covered in the first two sentences? Apparently, Starbucks and Mr. Schultz felt that it was quite necessary. The only plausible reason for such a line of thinking would have to be that Starbucks was getting complaints and accusations that they were (G‑d forbid) funding Israel in some way and sought to reassure its many terror-supporting customers that there was no chance that was the case.
With all due respect to the rosh yeshiva, zt’l, it appears he judged at least one of these businessmen a little too favorably. You can just imagine the likely statement of Mr. Schultz had he himself been accused of sharing a blanket in a concentration camp: No, Mr. Nazi, I would never share a blanket. Additionally I didn’t share the blanket with any Jews.
What a pathetic display indeed. Unfortunately, there have been others, Jewish and non-Jewish, who have let us down in these turbulent times. TV host Jon Stewart would be a stellar example. Thank G‑d there have been others who have chosen to defend Israel against the terror we face, such as Mayor Bloomberg, Joan Rivers, Mayim Bialik, and many others, at possible risk to their careers.
While all those supporting terrorism against the Jewish State should be aggressively boycotted, I think it’s important that the intention of the boycotters be clear. Although financial, professional, and emotional consequences of the prospective boycotts on the targets would be a welcome result, the main goal must be the Jewish unity and brotherhood that will be strengthened. One should not only boycott Jon Stewart and Starbucks to hurt them, but because he or she would be made sick by supporting such a person or establishment.
How could a Jew stomach Starbucks at this point or actually laugh at Stewart’s inane humor? I’m sure Khalid Mashaal (head of Hamas) tells a good joke every once in a while, but nobody should be laughing.
No support from Mr. Schultz “in any way”? Is he afraid that he will be accused of praying on our behalf? Now is a time to rally around the Jewish people and the IDF in particular—and these people have done the polar opposite. They should be shunned, and their shunning should lead to an even greater embrace of K’lal Yisrael and of Israeli soldiers and security forces, especially those wounded. Many wonderful organizations are doing great work, and I’m sure they can use all the help they can get (Yashar Lachayal, One Family, Young Israel, One Israel Fund, etc.).
We are now in the midst of reading the Book of Devarim in synagogues the world over. One of the central themes is that of doing the right thing and dismissing fear entirely. The obvious motivation for Starbucks’ announcement is fear, and it is unacceptable. As for Stewart, he would be advised to flip back to the Book of Vayikra to the verse “You shall not be a slanderer among your people; you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed” (19:16). This is exactly what he has done on his show multiple times. Lies and distortions during war!
Next time I’m on Mt. Herzl visiting the soldiers’ graves, no matter how hot the sun gets, a cold Frappuccino will be the last thing I’m thinking about.
I’ll be happy to provide advice on where to send all the money you’ll save from not shopping at Starbucks—and just think about how much more Torah you can learn in the time saved by not watching Jon Stewart. (Arutz Sheva) v
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved in 1999 to Israel, where he served in the IDF’s Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip.
Ben served as a rabbi on campus at the University of North Carolina and at Duke University. Ben now serves as director of the Jerusalem Heritage House (www.heritagehouse.org.il) and co-director of Young Jewish Conservatives (www.youngjewishconservatives.org). He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and five children.
By Ben Packer