May 6, 2011, - 3:20 pm

WTF?! San Diego Rabbi Sad for Bin Laden, “a Human Being”

By Debbie Schlussel

My good friend (and reader of this site), Phil Raimi (yes, cousin of director Sam Raimi), is now looking for a new synagogue to attend.  That’s because his rabbi, Rabbi Michael Berk of Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego is thinking maybe we should be sorry that Osama Bin Laden is dead.  This synagogue is part of the “reform” branch of Judaism . . . or as I call it, “in ten years, it’ll be a gay vegan church powered by its members’ own fecal material after bicycling.” Yup, Rabbi Berk is one of the Jewish Hellenists the Maccabees slaughtered in droves, back in the day. Or, maybe, he’s channeling the ghost of one of the 80% of Jews who chose to remain slaves in Egypt.  Last night, a rightfully disgusted Phil sent me this e-mail from Rabbi Berk, with his response:

Rabbi Michael Berk: Bin Laden Was a “Human Being.” Uh, No, Dumbass, He Wasn’t.

From: Rabbi Michael Berk
Sent: Thursday, May 05, 2011 4:10 PM
Subject: An Invitation from Rabbi Berk

Rabbi Berk’s (soon-to-be former) congregant Phil Raimi’s reaction:

Get a load of this moronic rabbi. I can’t believe I’ve stuck at this hyper-liberal Reform temple for so long; if it wasn’t for our havurah [DS: Hebrew for “group of friends”], I would have been out of there long ago. Time to find an orthodox shul [DS: Yiddish for “synagogue”] to belong to.

Can you believe this – we’re supposed to be SAD because a supposed “human being” (OBL) who was responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of innocent people was killed by our brave U.S. military?

Give me a flipping break!

Were we supposed to be sad because Adolf Eichmann was executed by Israel in 1961, Saddam Hussein was hung by a rope, or Hitler committed suicide in 1945? They were “human beings” too.

This is INSANE – Political Correctness gone positively amok. No wonder why we can’t stand this place anymore! If it weren’t for the havurah, we’d be out of there a long time ago.

Reform and Conservative Jews in America must have some kind of death wish!!

Boy, talk about political correctness, moral equivalence and hypersensitivity gone AMOK! We’re supposed to feel SAD that a so-called “human being” who was responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of innocent people was taken out by our brave U.S. military? Was I supposed to feel sad over Adolph Eichmann, Hitler and Saddam Hussein!? I don’t think so – its hard to feel sorry for evil monsters with no souls.

You know – I just find this email from this Rabbi so incredibly insulting, coming less than a week after a Yom HaShoah where my oldest son David stood in freedom under the gates to Auschwitz I, where his grandfather survived almost 2-1/2 years of hell. I don’t weep or feel the least bit guilty when insane evil destroyers of innocent human life pay for their filthy deeds.

This morning, Phil added:

Last night, on the Smithsonian Channel, I was watching “The True Story Behind the Movie “Casino””. In it, Pete Clifford (the head of the Las Vegas police detail that was investigating “the skim” at the casinos, and was trying to bust the mob influence) said this about the 1982 torture murder of Tony Spilotro by the Chicago mob. Spilotro was a notorious, brutal mobster who killed a lot of people (the Joe Pesci character in the movie) and terrorized Las Vegas in the late 70s:


“In 2007, a Chicago mobster confessed to carrying out the murder. The law had lost a chance at putting Spilotro behind bars. But few mourned his grisly end.”

Pete Clifford:

“I cheered – I thought that was a great event, because he died just as he lived. He was not good for society. He was bad for society. He never did one good thing in his lifetime.”

“So should I be unhappy? No.”

“I thought it was good he died and went to Hell.”

I “slept” on all of this and I’m still almost as mad this morning as I was yesterday. I’m seriously thinking of call up that place today and resigning.

Right on, Phil. Hey, maybe Rabbi Berk thinks this will get him into the 72 Re-Virginized Club in the afterlife.

Memo to the rabbi: after the Islamic revolution, collaborators like you are the first ones they’ll behead. Have fun with it. Remember Daniel Pearl?

E-mail Rabbi Berk ( and let him know what you think about his “Bin Laden quandary.”

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89 Responses

Perfectly stated skzion!

Now I know what REALLY bothered me about this whole incident. It was crystalized by your point “But really, we know the “rabbi” by the concerns of his flock. There is zero halachic basis for feeling sad. The only issue is how much joy one should feel and how one should display it.”

I had heard that Berk supposedly pointed out during his sermon on Friday that we have no need to feel sad about OBL’s death. However, the point that ANYONE in the shul was conflicted by OBL’s death confirms to me the general nature of the flock. In fact, he IMPLIED in his email that a SIGNIFICANT number of congregants expressed concern about celebrating the death of an evil murderer. This is why I am no longer comfortable in a shul that has no clear understanding of morality and in fact judges much of it in a fuzzy moral relativism.

Phil Raimi on May 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Phil, if a Jew can’t feel joy over the death of a Nazi, there is something psychologically wrong with him.

If a Jew is conflicted about good and evil, then he really doesn’t fear G-d.

Good Jews show pride when their enemies are destroyed and they choose with good over evil, every time and in every generation. And Jews should never ever, as too many of them appear wont to do today, apologize for staying alive.

After all that’s happened to the Jewish people throughout their history, being resolutely opposed to evil should be the lesson they’ve learned from the Holocaust.

And we see in Israel, too many Stupid Jews from Ehud Barak to Meir Dagan, are forgetting what Iran wants to do because they attribute Jewish restraint/Western rationality to a satanic regime. I know what I would do because I want the Jewish State to survive instead of no one being around to admit they were wrong, if G-d forbid, Israel was somehow wiped off the face off the earth in the future.

Stopping Iran wouldn’t be easy but there is no real alternative. And as long as their leaders are resolved to destroy Israel, better Iran is destroyed first. There is no place for moral relativism in this world.

Like I said, you gotta choose the right side. And I hope when push comes to shove that is what Israel is going to make sure not Iran and not any one, ever tries to destroy the Jewish people ever again.

Those two little words “never again” may not mean a lot to Rabbi Berk and his ilk but they do to me and I will never forget them.

NormanF on May 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Norman – you are unbelievable; such a man of true wisdom! Listen, as the son of a father who:

a. Had false papers identifying him as a non-Jew so he could act as a courier/black market smuggler between his ghetto and Mlawa and Warsaw 80 miles away (between the ages of 15 – 18).

b. Who survived almost 2-1/2 years in Auschwitz/Birkenau, Buna, Buchenwald and Flossenberg,

c. Was rescued out of a ditch, within minutes of death, by an American soldier.

d. Fought in the 1948 War of Independence

e. Spoke out about his experiences and educated hundreds of church, synagogue and school groups in Detroit during the last 20 years of his life and

f. Had a grandson who just last week on Yom HaShoah stood as a free young Jewish man under the Arbeit Macht Frei sign at Auschwitz I,

You are DEFINITELY speaking to the choir! You see, what I find SO irksome about liberal, Westernized thinking is that we want to apply our way of enlightened thinking to people who do NOT think in the manner we do. However, when we naively try to project our way of thinking about the world on others who do not embrace it, it is to our very own peril. I bless my father constantly for preaching vigilance about the dangers of the world to me – not in a way intended to frighten, discourage or depress me, but simply to make me aware of evil in our world and to be on-guard and viligant about it. You are a wonderful student from the very same school I am – we need to wake up more Jews (and non-Jews) in America about this!

Phil Raimi on May 8, 2011 at 9:25 pm

My father was a survivor of the Romanian Holocaust. He was born in Cernauti, now Chernovtsy in the Ukraine. It was then part of the Kingdom of Romania and it wasn’t a safe place for Jews to be, given the intense hatred for the Jews. Bukovina was annexed by the USSR in 1940 and he and his family lived for a time in the Soviet Union. He lost his entire family, father, mother and as I learned from him an older brother who disappeared in the Soviet Union. After the war, he and his sister made his way to Israel and he fought in the War Of Independence. After he joined the Zim merchant marine, at one point, during a visit to Hamburg, he met my mother, who was a vivacious German beauty, a Lutheran and you’re thinking a Jew and a German after the war? I would have said it was impossible. My parents always remained close friends and the saddest time in my father’s life was when he was at my mother’s deathbed as a child. He was a good man, a mensch, and he taught me everything. He was always proud to be a Jew and he would never entertain offers to convert to another religion. He had his principles and while our political allegiances differed, we loved each other and I felt very much lost when he died several years ago. I feel an obligation to honor his life and I’ve visited my family in Israel in my youth and I fell in love with the country and its people. We need to understand that while some things have changed in the world, the evil in it has come back and quite frankly speaking, I don’t like what I see and my reaction to every thing out of Israel has been very different from most people. I don’t follow the herd and I go the way of Providence with all the assured confidence a good person must go in our world.

My life may not be perfect but I will always do whatever G-d, who has shown me great kindness, asks of me.

NormanF on May 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Wow Norman – you sound like a great guy with a very similar history to mine. Are you on Facebook? Please send me a friendship invite so we can communicate. I would send one to you, but dont know your last name.

Phil Raimi on May 8, 2011 at 10:55 pm

I sent you a friendship invite through Facebook. I won’t give out my e-mail in a public forum but do a search for Birnberg on FB.

NormanF on May 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm

I haven’t read all of the comments, so I don’t know if anyone pointed out the story of Purim. I was taught that the Jews rejoiced at the hanging of Haman on the same scaffold he intended to use for the Jews. I also remember there was rejoicing at the drowning of the Egyptians after the parting of the Red Sea. I am no rabbinic scholar, but there are probably other examples.

fred on May 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

After Hitler and the gas chambers I can’t believe any Jew with a brain would be sad for the death of a cowardly mass murderer. OBL was not a soldier who fought bravely but scum who used others to kill innocents. To those of you who think(like the ignorant rabbi) that you can make friends with those who’s only mission is to kill you, WAKE UP!!!

bobby99 on May 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm

How much do you bet that at the lib synagogues on the upperwest side of Manhattan they were engaging in psychobabble about OBL. I am referring, of course, to the REFORM synagogues which also support partial birth abortion, gay marriage, the platform of the Democratic party. Raimi, by the way, directs cool horror films.

RobertaQ. on May 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Thanks Roberta! I agree with you on both accounts – most Reform synagogues do indulge relentlessly in psychobabble, and Sam does direct cool horror films!

Bobby99 – As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I couldn’t agree with you more. That’s why I was so damn incensed with my so-called Rabbi and synagogue, which I am leaving.

Phil Raimi on May 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm

This guy Berk is no more a Rabbi than the Pope is. The silly scarf around his neck should be the first givewaway/warning (“•Deuteronomy 22:12: “You shall make yourself twisted threads, on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself.”)…

How someone could study the Torah and Judaism/Jewish history, prophets, writings, etc. to the point where they earned the title from some school of “Rabbi” (teacher), and yet can also call themselves “reform” is beyond me…you either believe it or you don’t… does this “Rabbi” observe the Sabbath and eat Kosher according to the commandments in the Torah? Does he observe Yom Kippur as a full DAY of attonement as proscribed in the Torah?

So whatever he says, just doesn’t really matter now does it? Master, he’s no Jedi, er, Rabbi.

PsychoCheese on May 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm


    One of your lines “Does he observe Yom Kippur as a full DAY of attonement as proscribed in the Torah?” made me remember another reason I couldn’t stand that synagogue.

    For the high holidays, they simply didnt have enough room at the building for everyone, so every year you had schlep downtown to the SD Civic Center, sit in this huge multi-storied auditorium, listening to organ music play during the whole damn thing. The stage setup where the clergy sat reminded me of a Aimee Semple McPherson revival meeting the way it was set up with gleaming white lights and steps leading up to the Ark. The point I’m making is this – when Neilah was over and everyone got out of the theatre, it was only 6 pm and the sun would still be OUT! That always irked me to no end, because when you go to Neilah at a Conservative or Orthodox synagogue, they wouldn’t blow the Shofar until well after sunset, fulfilling the commandment you mentioned. Boy, no wonder I always had misgivings about that place – I was raised in a Conservative shul (not the most observant I know) and went to Chabad for a few years. Being in a “mixed marriage” (my wife was raised Reform), she felt more comfortable there until the last year or so. We’ve already resigned and won’t be back.

    Phil Raimi on May 12, 2011 at 9:11 am

Phil Raimi and Debbie are right. Moreover, this “Rabbi” Michael Berk of Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego is completely ignorant of Jewish history, philosphy, and practices.

He may know that Jews celebrate Purim, for example, but it appears that he clearly has no idea WHY it is celebrated!

Here’s the quick story behind the Purim celebration. Haman is described as the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. In the story, Haman and his wife Zeresh instigate a plot to kill all of the Jews of ancient Persia. Haman attempts to convince Ahasuerus to order the killing of Mordecai and all the Jews of the lands he ruled. The plot is foiled by Queen Esther, the king’s recent wife, who is herself a Jew. Haman is HANGED ROM THE GALLOWS that had originally been built to hang Mordechai. The dead bodies of his ten sons Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha (or Vajezatha), are also hanged after they die in battle trying to kill the Jews (Esther 9:5-14).

Now, anyone who knows anything about Purim, is at least familiar with the celebrations involved. When the name of Haman is called in the synagogue, for example, we all know that everyone there makes lots of noise with the noisemakers. Gifts are received and given. The symbol of Purim is a clown. Purim is a FUN HOLIDAY and children ENJOY the Purim holiday!

The analogy is clear enough. The death of Osama Bin Laden deserves the same kind of celebration that Haman’s death has received!

Ralph Adamo on May 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm

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