Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just Received From the Governor's Office...

This is presented, however, in complete respect for the loss of Martin Grossman, a"h, a human being and a fellow Jew who unfortunately had to pay the ultimate price this evening for his tragic mistakes and his unfortunate path. We hope constructive life lessons in the power of a proper upbringing to children & parents will result.

A Message from Governor Charlie Crist regarding Martin Grossman:

Thank you for contacting me and sharing your concerns about the execution of Martin Grossman.

On December 13, 1984, Mr. Grossman violated the terms of his probation by leaving Pasco County and having a stolen firearm in his possession. In a routine stop, Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Margaret Park found the weapon. When she reached for the radio in her patrol car to report him, Mr. Grossman attacked her with her own large flashlight, beating her over the head and shoulders 20 to 30 times. When Officer Park tried to fight back, Mr. Grossman took her .357 Magnum revolver and shot her in the back of the head, killing her.

Mr. Grossman took several carefully planned steps to cover up this horrible crime. The weapon was buried, and Mr. Grossman attempted to burn his clothes and shoes, which were later disposed of in a nearby lake. The following day, Mr. Grossman thoroughly cleaned the van and changed its tires to mislead law enforcement.

Officer Park’s autopsy revealed lacerations on top of her head, hemorrhaging inside the scalp and extensive fracturing of the skull. All of these injuries resulted from Mr. Grossman’s attack. The facts of this crime clearly meet the definition of heinous, atrocious and cruel, and his actions afterward demonstrate his well-reasoned attempts to cover it up.

The courts have fully reviewed Mr. Grossman’s legal claims, and his conviction and sentence have been affirmed by both the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. Based on the facts and exhaustion of legal proceedings, and in accordance with Florida law, I signed his death warrant on January 12, 2010.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Innocent Because He's Jewish?

I never heard of Martin Grossman until now. After being on death row for 25 years without a peep from anyone, people are suddenly scrambling to his defense.
Amnesty International says he had a rough life, some Jews say he's sorry. Now, I'm getting emails to sign a petition protesting his sentence.

People have suddenly woken up and decided to protest the impending execution of Martin Grossman, the man who shot and killed police officer Margaret Park because she was arresting him for possessing and discharging a stolen firearm, as well as violating his parole as a previously-convicted felon. His appointment with G-d is scheduled for February 16th.

On the petition site, where they're trying to gather 10,000 signatures, the story behind the murder has been carefully blurred and distorted into cyber-hoax that too many people believe, no matter how many clich├ęs give it away.

He intentionally attacked a police officer and then shot her to death... specifically to avoid going back to jail. He told her so. Now they want me to sign the petition. Are you with me so far?

The petition website throws a creative, flowery spin on the story, crafting a fairy tale that makes Grossman look more like an innocent bystander than a proven killer. Among other travesties of the truth, throughout the revised story, the writer conspicuously avoids mentioning that the actual victim was a police officer.

Being "taken aback by her sudden approach" and that he just "lost it" is not only false, it's a laughable defense. He was caught playing with a stolen gun. If he was truly startled, he would have shot her on the spot. Instead, he just asked the officer not to send him back to jail, which is what ALL ex-cons say when they're stupid enough to get arrested again. He and his friend attacked her, beating her with her own flashlight, she shot his friend, Grossman grabbed the gun and killed her, with no regard to her life or to his Judaism. He knew what he was doing, which is why he was found guilty. There's no grassy knoll in this story.

His sentence is no less deserved than any other cop-killer in a similar case...which brings up another point: Contrary to the petition's claim, there's nothing "unusual and arbitrary" about this death sentence. It also says that if Grossman were tried today, he wouldn't get the death penalty, but that's false as well. In fact, sentencing today is harsher. If Joel Steinberg was tried today (instead of 1987) for his 6 year-old daughter's death, he would have been convicted of 2nd degree murder instead of manslaughter. David Berkowitz (Son Of Sam) would have gotten the chair if not for a plea down to life (though he does get released after 957 years). To this day, we never cared about their sicknesses, upbringing or bar mitzvah parshiot. They kill, they pay.

This is, unfortunately, a crime that has occurred many times before & since in a similar manner with similar motives. Jews wouldn't think twice about putting him to death if it wasn't for this bogus petition that validates itself by lying and hiding behind the killer's birthright, which he tossed away years before. Beyond that, it just relies on the ridiculous, which is apparently acceptable to many.

"He didn't mean it..." "He promises never to do it again..." and "He regrets it" are script lines normally recalled from a bad 1970's courtroom TV show, but over 4,000 people have fallen for it so far. In actual fact, the goal of 10,000 signatures probably won't change the governor's mind, but I wish I didn't have to watch this.

Posting his bar mitzvah picture and sobbing over his unfortunate upbringing doesn't change the original truth. He stopped being that bar mitzvah long ago. Very sad teen years, a burglary conviction, then, at 19, a murder conviction. It's easy to find G-d while on death row, but that doesn't change the facts. Feel sorry for him, even mourn for him, but don't pretend he's innocent or that he's changed. I should hope he has. Repentance before death is one privelige Officer Park wasn't granted.

Suicide bombers often come from abused, tragic lives with no future, but that doesn't make them innocent and defending them desecrates all that's holy, especially the memories of the victims.

Unfortunately for Grossman, like any cop-killer, Jewish or not, he is being punished according to the law of the land and Jewish law as well. It's a shame, but it's not wrong.

If his name wasn't "Grossman," we wouldn't be here, 25 years late, considering the manipulative, yet surprisingly flimsy revisionist story put across here. None of us even cared a month ago, because most of us never heard of him. Some now even refer to him by his Hebrew name. Tragically absurd.

I'd like to see what a petition
in favor of his death sentence would yield. I also wonder what would have happened if Officer Park was Jewish. Martin Grossman murdered a police officer with full awareness of his actions and even admitting his motive as he did it. The punishment for that in Florida is death. Very sad, but simple and just.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hava Nagila

Now THIS is what I call American Jewish Music.


A bit hokey and badly-pronounced, but a rare and joyous use of Jewish music in a mixed forum...their hearts are in the right place...I hope.

The funny part is, I can't stand "Hava Nagila."

...* Hey... Aren't "Pancho & Juan" the motorcycle cops from "CHiPs?" **

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael Jackson and us...

I see that people do have strong opinions to share about Michael and his passing.

I don't wish to repeat what I've already said, but I am sad he's gone and I'm even sadder about what people say at his expense, without truly knowing him or the truth behind the stories.

He made mistakes, like anyone but I don't believe they were deserving of the gross abuse he was subject to by the public and the media. The things he shared with the media were often his own undoing.

We were not there and he was legally vindicated, yet so many are willing to pretend they know enough intimate details that they are willing to malign the name of a man whose scales were constantly tipped towards the more positive side of human consideration, charity, dignity, art, discipline and, yes...even morality. For every misjudgment we gather with gossip, speculation & sensationalism, there are hundreds more acts of kindness and positive contribution that can be cited from genuine fact.

Watch him, listen to him...recently and when he was a kid...look at his fans... watch his videos, pull up past concert reviews... when was there ever any incident of violence, drugs or indignity that occurred in the vicinity of his performances?

People still pass judgment on stories they consider to be facts, when they're not. He was not found "not guity" due to technicalities. Though I believe he excercised poor judgment in sharing facts people would misinterpret, it was proven that he did nothing sexually wrong or illegal, the accusers were appropriately discredited, some even admitting it.

Nonetheless, it's easier to believe the juicy stuff...that a 135-pound guy in his 40's with no prior history of sexual misconduct, inviting thousands of sick children to his home, suddenly has the strength to overpower some teenagers to something obviously against his normal nature, while millions of teenagers have knocked at his door for years ready to go willingly.

I do believe it was poor judgment to lie anywhere near an unrelated child, even if it was for the childs emotional comfort, in this day and age when I can't even pat a kid's head without getting nabbed. Just for PR, telling the press was a dumb mistake, holding his child over the railing for display, even for a split second, was a dumb mistake, but he doesn't deserve this...especially after death. No one was harmed and everybody benefited from his time here on Earth.

Not everyone liked his style or his music. Not everyone believed that the makeup was to hide splotches developed on his face from an inherited condition that quite visibly exists with other family members. Many still believe that there is such a thing as bleaching your skin. And, though I wish he didn't fix his nose, it's not for me to condemn him for doing so.

The lies have been exposed in the courts & explanations have been given, but they don't sound as credible as "pedophilie" and "freak."

The imbalance of facts in the middle east have been exposed for all to see, yet, even after 9/11, the clear targeting of the state of Israel, the obvious non-existence of the Palestinian people before 1967, that doesn't sound as credible as the terms "Zionist oppressors," "settlers," or "Palestinian State."

I'll say it again...We, as Jews, should know better. And yes, it IS that deep. Michael Jackson's music affected millions of people, including me and my family...including my parents, who didn't identify with his music as much as fully recognize the enormity of his talent and influence.

Our willingness to malign him, mock him, make jokes about things that hurt him & his family and make fun of his death, exposes a cruel and undignified nature about us that I wish I hadn't seen and that none of us should have.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What's Jewish Music's problem? What's ours?

My, my, my... we are in trouble, aren't we?

From the point of view of gossip alone, the already shaky Jewish music "industry," already under constant fire, is now being made an ever-growing target by the mostly ignorant, but loud critics of their own definition of "wrong."

uuggghhhh... where to start?

I'm not going to attempt to address it in one sitting, because I've gotten all sorts of hate mail and support mail for my work over the years, saying this is not such a simple fight. It should, however, begin with certain necessary definitions and observations that I'd like to touch on first. The rest is up to you:

JEWISH vs. "GOYISH":In short, if anyone is is hoping to link to specifically pure-bred Jewish sources of of Jewish music available in this last century, they will come up very short and disappointed, unless they accept some hard truths.

Musical composition of any major consequence, in general, has historically depended upon other musical influences to shape it into a unique mixture. Many of those mixtures, intentionally or not, can often closely resemble one of its actual sources, a style created for another purpose, or even something it had no knowledge of.

Saying that certain uses of an organ in a song, for example, with chord structure and actual choice of sound settings on the organ itself are reminiscent of non-Jewish religious music, is a fair statement. Saying that using an organ at all is therefore wrong, is not fair, anymore than using an electric guitar is wrong due to it's connections to
paganism's role in metal or modern Christian music.

If the requirement for Jewish Music (an ambiguous term, to say the least) is to resemble nothing else but Jewish sources, then roughly 60-75% of music created for Jewish entertainment, nationalism and prayer in the last 60 years must be eliminated.

If you are among those who object to "non-Jewish" music, you must know how to answer the questions of "what is..." and "what can be..." before you criticize music intended to contribute to the global Jewish community.

Finally, the term "goyish" has, unfortunately become an over-used term that remains undefined to most of its users, while its derogatory nature satisfies their anger at the present shortcomings of the Jewish music industry, which has been destroyed by their ignorance and sanctimony.

Those who have learned to hate non-Jews feel that "goyish" is the worst thing something or someone Jewish can be. In fact, musical influences created or used mostly by non-Jews or non-religious Jews for music not related to prayer have become the #1 source of influence in Jewish music this past century.

The issue has come to surround the fascinatingly un-defined term "goyish," rather than the more understood and respected term of "improper." "Goyish" is a paranoid term, in my opinion, suggesting that some underlying purpose of the "improper" influence is for the underhanded infiltration of a religion that conflicts with ours.

I can say, with 35 years of intimate involvement with just about every dimension of the Jewish music field, that much of todays so-called "yeshivish" and "chassidic" music (not all, of course), including many of those being used on the bima (prayer pulpit) contains influences in it's musical arrangements, composition, performance and even words that I feel are "improper," but often for reasons that have little to do with the influence of conflicting religions.

You should continue to comment here, there and everywhere. This is not going away and it's going to get worse.

The furor is now reaching new heights and pretty soon, if you don't already think that Jewish music's pickings are slim now, just watch what happens when you let it happen.

Leaving the subjective art of music to be judged by the black and white will not work and it will prevent the many different musical talents out there from contributing their art to Jewish life. Do you think Judaism needs music? I'll leave that question open.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What IS Jewish Music?

I'm going to leave much of this answer to those responding.
My point here is to show the differing opinions out there and, certainly, share my own.

Whoa, baby, do I have my own...

I'm an American, born-and-bred, growing up on Beatles, cantorial, Walt Disney, zemiros, Dean Martin, Shlomo Carlebach, Peter, Paul and Mary, CSNY, EW&F, ELO, Marvin Gaye, Gerrer and Modzitzer, Sherwood Goffin, Ruach and Joni Mitchell... an often-depressing combination of cultures for a growing musician...and that's just spanning one decade of almost five.

I made a career combining (!) many of these elements. Finding a balance is still an artistic and personal struggle, but it also involves dealing with the constantly-changing morays of Jewish audiences.

My next question will be "what is American Jewish music?" Answering that question (and arguing it, I expect) may very well involve responses to the first one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My bad... I wasn't here...

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks and apologies to those of you who were who were considerate enough to visit my new blog this past year, but received no response from me.

The formation of the blog coincided with a few other missions that were underway for me, so I was suddenly called away and rendered busy for a long time and for some very good reasons. Visiting the Holyland for a month, expanding my studio for many more, gathering material for a modern Jewish-American wedding album I'm producing in my studio and working hard with my new business partners, Ariel Publicity, to get the word around, organizing PR for the new direction I’ve taken with my group, Takana, the “Reach Out” CD and the rest of my musical endeavors.

The newsletter is coming soon (iy"H, for those who are concerned), so the opportunity to subscribe will be made available on www.veroba.net and all will hopefully begin to make sense.

I see I missed responding to some very tempting comments and I'm hoping you'll return to discuss them again. I'm looking forward to hearing from you and invite you to return as soon as you can.

Thanks again for coming and for listening! A freilechen Adar.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Here goes...

I've been in the American Jewish music business for...well, at least a couple of decades.

Along the way, I've collected my share of opinions and attitudes and I've received my fair share of praise and criticism for combining the secular and Jewish worlds in my life and in my music. I've got plenty to say, so if you start then maybe I'll argue!

I don't wish to simply use this blog to promote my work, but I do have reason to mention it here. My new CD, "Reach Out" is my pride and joy, accomplishing what I've hoped for a long time...to record an original album with messages that underline our obligations, not simply as Jews, but as human beings.

The album is not meant to be Chassidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc... it's human and it's universal. It touches on our relationship to G-d, but it emphasizes our relationship to our fellow man as well as to ourselves. Prayer is fine for those who do, but certain priorities must be in order before those prayers should be expected to have genuine value.

For most people, it's easier to address those tangible issues that are right in front of us down here on earth, rather than maintaining faith in a greater power that is not directly visible to us. Balancing the two is the great challenge.

Ironically, the aspect of man's relationship to his fellow man is not addressed in Jewish music as frequently as that with G-d, even though the former is, by all rabbinical authorities of any kind, the most important.

As a lifelong fan and student of hundreds of musical genres outside Jewish categories, I find great use for the many styles of lyrics and music available that can serve the Jewish people in many ways. Many Jewish audiences, however, are reluctant to allow these influences into their lives. Those more open-minded are, unfortunately, part of the minority within the active buying market of Jewish music.

Talk amongst yourselves. Here are some topics. Discuss. No fighting... not yet, anyway.
  • Is it just entertainment, or is there more to it?
  • The rules of Jewish music are always changing...or are they?
  • Should they be?
  • Should there be rules at all?
  • Is there really such a thing as music that is "purely Jewish?"
  • What is the purpose of Jewish music in American life?
Feel free to jump in at any time...