the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times [2/20/06], Paul Krugman wrote that the following people are definitely NOT a mensch:

President Bush As Mark Russell commented, "As I understand President Bush's Medicare plan, it provides for unlimited coverage for anyone over 72 whose parents can pass the physical."
Dick Cheney
Donald Rumsfeld
Michael Chertoff
Michael Leavitt

Krugman adds that "The people now running America aren't mensches...Above all, the anti-mensches now ruling America are destroying our moral standing."

In a letter to the editor {Feb. 25, 2006], Gene Cosloy wrote to the New York Times: " ...A mensch is a human being, not in the biological but in the humanitarian sense. At the highest level, a hero is a mensch, but to qualify, one need merely be a good person.

To empathize with human suffering, to try to make your world better, to make a difference for others--all of these convey some sense of the honorific "mensch."

Can a politician be a mensch? Sure, the terms are not mutually exclusive, not that you could find many examples in the Bush administration."

The late Leo Rosten said that a mensch is someone of admirable character, who is upright, honorable, trustworthy, deserving of great respect, someone of surpassing decency--or tact.

And, according to Rosten ("Hooray For Yiddish"), "Abraham Lincoln, say Jews, was the model-ideal of a mentsh."

Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist, said of Oprah Winfrey [re: the James Frey memoir], "The year is very new, but I still name you Mensch of the Year, for standing up and saying you were wrong. Takes a lot of courage."

Parents often need help in reaching Menschdom. Rabbi Neil Kurshan wrote a book titled, "How to Raise Your Child to Be a Mensch."

In the writer's opinion, the following individuals are also NOT considered a mensch:

"As for Mel Gibson's movie--let me begin by giving away the plot. As I understand it, here's the movie. It's two hours of a Jewish guy getting beat up by some Italians, egged on by some so-called Jewish religious leaders. Apparently God is not upset by this beating and this death because it's part of God's plan. That's it--I've saved you $7.00."

Roger Ebert said, Passion is "...the most violent film I have ever seen."

And Rabbi Judy Schindler said, "...through the centuries, Passion plays have led to anti-Semitic feelings and actions. Like you, I pray that the release of Gibson's movie will not spark anti-Semitic sentiment in Charlotte, nor worldwide. Nonetheless, as Jews we need to respond."

So, who should we label a "mensch"?

The God Squad (Rabbi Marc Gellman and Father Thomas Hartman). The Rabbi and the Monsignor have written five books and offer faith filled advice and answers to religious questions.

He was a Mensch. He was not too impressed with himself to be kind to his comrades. And he was cool. John Connolly

As The Jewish Chronicle reported, "Fire was Rabbi Baruch Goldstein's first experience with the Holocaust. The flames came from the bombing of his hometown in Poland." Fire became for Goldstein "an expression of the Nazi horror." He presented a stained glass piece-- created by Worcester artist, Sandy Hersh-- to Beth Israel. Rabbi Goldstein said, "Two-thirds of the work is fire. It represents the two-thirds of European Jewry that was destroyed."

The piece is described as having "six hands in the fire." "Some are looking for revenge, some are giving up," says Rabbi Goldstein. "Six hands, six million Jews who died."

The article in The Jewish Chronicle ends with the following quote by Rabbi Goldstein: "All Jews are Holocaust survivors in a way. We're all affected by it. It's part of who we are--we were hated as a race. We're all part of that."

Guy Kawasaki, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, has a theory about how to be a mensch. He writes, " I have a theory (as opposed to a dream) that Heaven is a three-class Boeing 777. You can sit in a narrow seat that doesn't recline and eat chicken-like substances next to a screaming baby in coach class. Or, you can sit in a slightly wider seat that reclines slightly more and eat a beef-like substance in business class.

But The Goal is to spend eternity in first class--specifically Singapore Airlines first class. Here your seat reclines to a completely flat position, and there's a power outlet, personal video player, wireless access to the Internet, and noise- cancelling headphones. There are also chefs, not microwave ovens

You cannot buy your way into first class; nor can you use frequent flyer miles. THE ONLY WAY TO EARN AN UPGRADE IS TO BE A MENSCH. "

According to Kawasaki, how does one achieve menschdom?

1. Help people who cannot help you. A mensch helps people who cannot ever return the favor.

2. Help without the expectation of return.

3. Help many people. Menschdom is a numbers game: you should help many people, so you don't hide your generosity under a bushel.

4. Do the right thing the right way. A mensch would ever cop an attitude like, "We're not as bad as Enron." There is a bright, clear line between right and wrong, and a mensch never crosses that line.

5. Pay back society A mensch realizes that he's blessed. For example, entrepreneurs are blessed with vision and passion plus the ability to recruit, raise money, and change the world. These blessings come with the obligation to pay back society. The baseline is that we OWE something to society--we're not a doing a FAVOR by paying back society.

Mr. Guy Kawasaki worked for a jewelry company owned by a Jewish family. He says, "To this day, I know more Yiddish than Japanese." :-) Regarding the question, "Do most successful entrepreneurs end up mensches?" he replied, "Mensches are so rare that it's highly unlikely that most entrepreneurs end up as mensches."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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