Sunday, December 18, 2011

Miami Heat Looking Good as They Enter 2012 NBA Season

There was a moment near the end of the Heats White v. Red shirts scrimmage game on Thursday night when Udonis Haslem gave a stiff backarm to one of our eager new draft picks as he drove to the basket. The other guy fell to the wayside -- even now, I can't remember his name -- but the statement from Udonis was clear: this year I will make an impact. Maybe he was angry after seeing this article in the Herald entitled "No guarantee loyalty will be rewarded for Miami Heat’s Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem." I was certainly upset when I read it. 

I never seriously thought Riley would dump Haslem, a guy for whom the Big Three all took a pay cut to keep in Miami last year. And poor Mike Miller has just gotten unlucky with injuries. Miller needs a second chance, and Haslem is the heart of our team -- he's a team captain with Wade. Instead, we had a great offseason.  The Heat kept both these assets and added Shane Battier, a defensive minded team player with talent, and Norris Cole, a young kid out of Cleveland State who probably got drafted too late and is already giving Mario Chalmers a run for his money. Big second year Dexter Pittman is getting some good looks, and Riley is taking the long view on veteran Eddy Curry. Our 33 point victory over the Magic (118-85) in our first preseason game tonight was our third highest best margin of victory ever for a first preseason game. The team kept the core of the team that came to Game Six of the NBA Finals last season, and wisely filled out its roster

In his post-game interview after the game tonight, Lebron agreed that there are two open spots on the team right now. This breeds a healthy competition for a starting spot in the big leagues with The Big Three. It is an environment that could yield great dividends in young talent like Pittman and Cole, and help keep guys like Chalmers, Anthony and Jones  sharp. 

The Heat work hard and feed off of each other, with Lebron and DWade setting the example, each vying for the distinction of best in the NBA. Yet as much as each can shine on his own, their greatest achievement will be winning an NBA title together. The bravado, the sense of history, the sheer audacity of it all -- it may infuriate the rest of the country, but for us down here in Miami, the real Heat fans, it is exhilarating. As a lifelong HEAT basketball fan, I am excited to see my team take on the entire league for the second time. Last year they fought hard, and Dirk finally had his day, but 2012? 2012 is our year!


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Ambassador's Gift

The world can be sad, lonely and cruel. Was that the lesson that Avi Greenberg tried to teach us when he took his life on Saturday morning, Thanksgiving Weekend? Avi was a troubled soul. He was kind, honest and intelligent, but so very sad. You could see it in his eyes. Maybe it had something to do with his childhood: the foster family, the estrangement from the Orthodox Jewish community in which he was raised. He never told me, and now we'll never know. Beyond the sense of pain and loss I feel, I am also left wondering why. Why would a person who was so clearly loved by so many people do such a horrible, hopeless act? Maybe, in that last, desperate moment, he was so fixated on his own sorrow that he could not sense the love of his friends. I don't know. I don't have any answers. All I have is memories, a few photographs, and the story I am about to share with you tonight.

Avi sent me this story, entitled the Ambassador's Gift, last September. I was surprised that he came to me. He sent me the file, a story he had been working on, in an email with this message: "tell me what you think and if theres anything i should change or elaberate on. this is the first draft so i know about all the grammatical errors" I was busy with my third year of law school, so I saved the file to my desktop, and proceeded to ignore it. When I finally opened it up, I only gave it a cursory glance. After finishing the first page, reading with my critical editor's eye, all I could see were the imperfections: passive constructions, misspellings, simplistic characters. I dismissed it as the work of an amateur. I never emailed Avi back to tell him what I thought. But I was so selfish. I didn't even give it a chance. I didn't even finish this three page story.

 Over the past few days, as I reflected back on our relationship, I kept coming back to this story -- the fact that it was unfinished, both the story itself, and my reading of it. Tonight I finally opened it up, and realized what a clever little parable it is. It is not the most original piece of writing, but it has heart. It earnestly attempts to convey truth and meaning through irony. In some way, it feels like some sort of metaphor for Avi's life: imperfect, far too short, too-often neglected, but full of wisdom and promise. Though Avi is gone, his story lives on. I hope you will enjoy it.

The Ambassador's Gift 
A short story by Avi Greenberg 

He awoke in a small, single room, straw-thatch roofed, shack on a small wooden cot. He slowly come to with his eyes scanning the unfamiliar room trying to look for clues as to where he was and how he had gotten there. His head felt inflated and he had pain in his ribs and right leg that was in a splint. Within a few minutes of waking a small and thin black haired man in his mid thirties entered the room, when the dark haired man noticed that the injured man was awake he yelled outside to the field that their patient was awake and to come quick. The small black haired man walked to the injured mans cot and introduced himself as Peter son of John and asked him if he had remembered what happened. The wakening man at that moment realized not only did he not know what had happened but that he didn’t remember anything about himself not even his name and with a scratchy dry voice replied to Peter “No. Do you?”
In the ensuing few days the mystery man had gained enough strength and health to be able to walk around with the aid of a crutch. The man was introduced to Peters family, his wife Mary, his two children, Tommy, aged 10 and Jessica, aged 7, and Peters mother Elizabeth, all of whom lived in this small straw roofed shack that stood on the edge of a modest sized farm. Peter explained to him that his son, Tommy, discovered him, in the woods while collecting firewood, unconscious and badly injured, about a month back and that’s when they took him in to nurse him back to health. Although the man was still healing from his injuries, his memory still offered no hints as to whom he was or where he was from. After much discussion they had all come to the conclusion that he must have been apart of a caravan attacked by bandits while traveling on a nearby road notorious for its dangers. They figured he must have been injured and wandered some distance before losing consciousness. He inquired about going to the other nearby towns to see if there was anybody who knew who he was or if they had heard of an attack on any travelers and knew anything about who those travelers where or if their where others still alive that he might have been with, but Peter explained to him that it would be very unwise to go around asking too many questions in these lands because, in this kingdom, the king and his government was an oppressive one and that anybody that seemed suspicious would quickly disappear.
It was the first time the man heard about the tyrannical regime that the kind and gentle people whom saved his life feared so much. He soon learned that the very farm they where living on, as well as all the surrounding farms, were owned by the king and that they where made to work on the farm and turn over just about all of their crop as taxes, leaving barely anything for them to live on. They also explained that the men were often drafted into the military to fight wars of conquest so the king could further his riches and power. Many of the men who left to fight never returned, as was the case with Peter’s father many years before. The king’s knights were thugs, known to go from town to town, raping the women and stealing cattle from its inhabitants. None of this sat well with the poor amnesiac who couldn’t understand how God would let such kind people be treated so horribly. As the months went by and the seasons changed, the man was beginning to lose any hope of regaining knowledge of whom he was and began to be consumed with the idea of liberating the people who saved his life. Although he was still breathing, he was overcome with the idea that, without memories, ones spirit was dead because one is nothing more than the sum total of their memories. The thoughts of a dim soul, juxtaposed with the want to better the lives of the angels who had opened their home to save a stranger, got him thinking that the only reason God saved him was so that he may bring to these people a much deserved reprise. He figured he was god’s instrument for setting things right and just. He realized that there could be only one thing to do; become an assassin.
Peter had tried to deter him from what he had described as a fools revenge and that although things where hard, grace would bring salvation not vengeance, but the John Doe was convinced and determined to bring peace to the righteous and bring down this evil empire. Eventually, Peter gave in and told him that he would introduce him to his cousin, who was involved in an underground rebellion.
Peter’s cousin, Samuel, was a traveling businessman from a few towns over. Samuel was a much taller man then Peter and, if you weren’t told they were cousins, you wouldn’t ever think they were related. They were polar opposites. Where Peter was small, soft spoken and gentle, Samuel was a large, commanding presence, loud and outspoken. Where Peter was careful to chose his words Samuel always spoke his mind and was forceful with his opinions. In spite of Samuel’s belligerent disposition, the stranger quickly took a liking to him, as did many others, mainly because Samuel had a certain wit about him. After many meetings, Samuel felt the amnesiac was ready to meet some of the others involved in the resistance. The man, along with Samuel, had devised a plan to bring down the king. Samuel explained that the king had an affinity for Egyptian art work and that ambassadors often brought him gifts in this form and that this would be the best way to be granted an audience with the king. Upon presenting the gift to the king, the would-be assassin would lunge forward with a dagger to pierce the king’s heart. It was understood that this would be a suicide mission for the kings guards would surely kill him, but this was the reason he was perfect for this mission, he knew that he could no longer be a burden to his adopted family and felt that his body was still alive in order to return balance to the land. Samuel and the others in the resistance had been able to acquire a sarcophagus, made with gold and studded with jewels. They had felt that it would be an irresistible gift to the king and all but guarantee an audience with him. They also got a horse-drawn carriage, along with fine clothing so that the unknown man may pose as an ambassador from a somewhat distant kingdom called Faraland.
The resistance had arranged, with help from sympathizers from within the king’s court, for a meeting to present the gift, giving them the opportunity to plant the dagger.
As the carriage pulled into the castle’s walls, the man with no memories pulled the large hood on his garment over his head. When the wheels finally rolled to a stop, the man stepped out and walked into the throne room, while three of the others from the resistance, posing as the ambassador’s subordinates, carried the sarcophagus behind him. The king was atop his throne with a smug, condescending look on his face, surrounded by guards, noblemen, advisors, peasants, and many others, in attendance, to appease the kings every wish and desire. All of the help that surrounded the king had a faint look of fear on their face, hoping not to so much as inadvertently annoy the king for fear of retribution, many have gone to the gallows for what would seem as a most minor of an infraction. “Ambassador from the kingdom Faraland” was announced and the man with no memories stepped forward the gift. Under the man’s sleeves he clutched the dagger and with the other hand pulled down his hood. The king looked up and a smile formed on his face making the man believe the king was pleased with the gift, but the truth of the matter was that the king was not smiling because of the gift but before the king could muster a word the man leaped forward piercing the dagger into the kings chest. The king’s smile quickly faded as the look of shock overtook him, and with his last breath the king cries “my son! Your alive..”

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Make the Call to Save Service!

For a year between undergrad and law school, I served our nation's most vulnerable communities as a member of City Year Washington DC, an AmeriCorps programs that brings together a diverse group of young people to tackle some of the biggest social problems facing urban youth. Working with my fellow corps members on education programs and community service project, I experienced the joy and solidarity that comes with sacrificing one's time for the good of one's country. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which funds AmeriCorps, was expanded in the beginning of the Obama Administration by a large bipartisan group of Congressman and Senators, who understood the strong impact these programs have on the young people who participate in them and on the communities they serve -- an impact that is leveraged by private and corporate donations, which strengthens our civic bonds and national security.

Today, in a new political landscape, the House of Representatives is now threatening to completely eliminate CNCS, and with it, nearly 100,000 jobs for young people. This bill will shut down the entire Corporation for National and Community Service and eliminate AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund, the Volunteer Generation Fund, and Learn & Serve America. If this bill passes, these cost-effective programs -- that fill the gap between the services state and local governments can provide and the supports citizens require -- will be gone.

This is an outrageous assault on a bipartisan program that has for decades proven itself to be efficient, effective, and patriotic. Please help stop this terrible bill from becoming law by going to this link and finding out more about what you can do to get involved.

Steps you can take Today to make a difference include:

1. Call or Send a Letter to your Senators and Congressperson

2. Sign up with to get updates on this important campaign

3. Get your friend and family involved: share this post on facebook and twitter

In my family, we just celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In our tradition, this is the time when God renews the world. It is a time pregnant with possibilities, when it is decided what will happen in the coming year -- who will live, and who will die. But this is not traditionally seen as destiny; our tradition teaches that by doing acts of loving-kindness, charity, and prayer, we can change the future and avert the evil decree. The House of Representatives has pronounced the death sentence for AmeriCorps, but the fight has just begun. Please help us avert the evil decree and take action to save these Service programs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I passed the Florida Bar Exam! Trust me, I'm a lawyer.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Golan: The Monologue You Won't See at "Subject to Change"

The following is a dramatic monologue which I edited for performance under the guidance of the board of "Subject to Change," a student group here at Penn Law School that produces a show consisting of student/faculty/staff-written monologues, performed by students. The monologue was not selected for performance. The reason for this rejection, I am told, is because the monologue is too "poetic" and "cerebral," "dense" and "difficult to understand," and not enough of a "story" which "people can easily follow when listening." I leave it to you to decide.

It’s 2002.
I’m traveling along the banks of the Sea of Galilee, in the shadow of the Golan Heights – a mountainous region Israel conquered from Syria during the Six Day War, and later annexed.

A sardonic statue of the Syrian Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad sits with a rod by the sea and fishes.
Assad wants to fish in my lake.
“No Arab swims in my sea”:
The Sea of Galilee.

Summer sun melts the shores.
Palms stand in rows in lines like dates
where empty olive grove chair waits plastic in the shade.

This long road
got dust spread along the air
which tastes of ancient moisture.
It’s a languid Tiberias evening.
Yellow afternoon.
Yellow water.
Starving grass creeps along the dust:
long hot yellow dust,
Wave at Assad as a tourist takes a picture of his statue.
A reminder:
“No Arabs in my sea.”

White marks in metal.
This old car. Moves.
My friend Gedaliah has lent it indefinitely. I'm moving
near his old soul. He is dead
and I am living and that is fair by God,
by God this life is fair. At least true.
At least I'm alive
with dirt in my lungs
my feet out the window
wave to the sea. Hello.

This car is moving, the reeds are by the side;
Sea of Reeds, see
a knick Gedaliah made for me
before he was exploded in Jenin.

Gedaliah’s cousin Jed is in the driver’s seat.
Jed says stop so we can swim,
and we can swim here despite the sign:
all signs say no.
We've stopped by a bank of the Sea of Galilee
where lovers litter the shore.
Men in cotton underwear shout
and spit as they come up.
Murky murky shore.
I sink in the shore. Bubbles come up from the muck.
Old muck air between my toes
tickles my legs and pops.

Back during the Peace Process, this sea receded; did you know this sea fell?
Yard by yard it sank in a long drought.
Jordan laughed and Turkey too.
And tall trees grew by the shore
where deep waves once rolled.
Then last winter, a little miracle occurred.
Extraordinary rainfall filled the sea, pushing the shoreline up into the vegetation.

Have you ever seen a sunken tree?
In murky yellow water-air I swim, I see the shore
and remark:
“It’s deep here. Too deep for reeds. This is not the Sea of Reeds.
This is the Sea of Galilee filled with trees.”

I'm swimming in six feet of water,
where the tops of trees sway in and out with the waves.
Trees eight feet tall, swaying in the waves.
I wonder will they drown,
now that the water’s risen.
Will we drown in these rising seas?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Exciting News About my Comment -- Publication!

I am excited to announce that my student Comment, "The Niqab in the Courtroom: Protecting Free Exercise in a Post-Smith World," has been selected for publication in volume 159 of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. I spent a full year researching, writing and editing this work, and I am so glad it is being published. You may read the comment online here.

The Penn Law Review sent out a short notice to our members introducing my comment. I include it here for you to get an idea of what is is about:

Adam's Comment deals with the controversy surrounding an effort by the state of Michigan to restrict the right of Muslim women to appear in court wearing a niqab, or face-veil. After an introduction to the American Muslim community and the Supreme Court’s Free Exercise jurisprudence, the paper considers several methods by which a reviewing court could apply strict scrutiny to a rule like Michigan’s, focusing on the “hybrid-rights” theory that currently divides the Courts of Appeals. It then evaluates the interests proffered as compelling reasons for the ban, and presents legal and empirical evidence suggesting that these are not sufficiently compelling and narrowly tailored enough to overcome strict scrutiny. By showing why even individuals at the outer edges of the law still have a strong claim for a religious exemption, this Comment makes jurisprudential space for the vast majority of religious adherents to exercise their religious freedom within the halls of American justice.

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