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.

Martin Grossman

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 clichés 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 Officer Park, beating her with her own flashlight. She shot his friend, but Grossman grabbed the gun and shot 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.

Now THIS is “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.

Funny part is, I can’t stand “Hava Nagila.”

(Hey… Aren’t “Pancho & Juan” the motorcycle cops from “CHiPs?”)

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 facts that aren’t facts. He was not found “not guilty,” though I do believe he exercised 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. We’ve always known his social skills were handicapped, but it’s too tempting to consider him perfects enough to condemn.

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 teenager to do something obviously against his normal nature, while millions of teenagers have knocked at his door for years ready to go willingly.

Of course I believe it was poor judgment to lie anywhere near an unrelated child. even if it was for the child’s emotional comfort. In this day and age you can’t even pat a kid’s head without getting nabbed. Just in terms of PR, holding his child over the railing for display even for a split second (it was 1.5 seconds) was a dumb mistake he realized instantly, but the repeated video clip will last forever in slo-mo. He doesn’t deserve this…especially after death. No one was harmed and everybody benefitted heavily 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 explained and accepted in the courts, but that fact doesn’t sell newspaper as well as the words “pedophilie” or “freak.”

I’ll say it again…We, as Jews, should know better.
The parallels are strong.  The lies 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 ’67, which doesn’t sell as well as the terms “Zionist oppressors,” “settlers,” or “Palestinian State” are all things we instantly see right through.

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.

New York – Gershon Veroba Converts Secular Music, Is It Kosher? — VosIzNeias

New York – Gershon Veroba Converts Secular Music, Is It Kosher? — VosIzNeias

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Over Her Head: A reviewer mistakenly reviews my “Reach Out” album.

I’ll explain…
The following review came out in response to my “Reach Out” album in 2007, proudly containing some of the most complex songs I’ve ever written. This reviewer both loved and hated the album, even calling some of the English songs “hokey,” which is quite an ironic thing to say in Jewish music world about the only lyricist with an actual degree in English writing.
confusedwriter1.jpgApparently, anything she doesn’t understand must be “hokey.”  Sorry, ma’am… The English lyrics I write can’t always be as articulate, alliterate and profound as those you get on chassidic albums, which, by Jewish marketing rules, could not contain more than one English song or else it fails in the stores.

The Punchline…? The album she entered in the headline was “Variations,” which were 4 copy albums I made, many containing intentionally “hokey” material. That’s the nature of copies and parodies.  Curiously, that wasn’t the album she was reviewing! Go figure.

ON THE FRINGE—AL TZITZIT: Veroba Variations (CD review)

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:

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 overly-used term that remains undefined, 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 chassidish 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.

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

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…