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January 18, 2013     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 18, 2013

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PAGE 4A - HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 18, 2013 By Kenneth Jacobson Remember King for battling hate against all NEW YORK (JTA)--For those of us who closely follow the progress in America in the battles against racism and anti-Semitism, the observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday this year has particular relevance. First, the King holiday, which this year is ob- served on Jan. 21, reminds us of two significant anniversaries surrounding the civil fights leader. It is the 50th anniversary of his historic "I Have A Dream" speech at the Mall on Washington and the 20th anniversary of all 50 states in the union observing the holiday. Second, while leading the monumental struggle for civil rights in this country, King never equivocated in denouncing anti-Semitism. "The segregationist and racists make no fine distinction between the Negro and the Jews," he stated bluntly. And in a letter to Jewish leaders just months before his 1968 assassination, King said, "I will continue to oppose it [anti-Semitism] because it is immoral and self-destructive." The message--that it is never enough for Jews and Jewish organizations to condemn anti- Marking MLK day with an imam By Richard Ries one and the same." Musri said that the Islamic In 1994, Congress declared the third Monday of every January to be a "National Day of Service" to commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose name is synonymous with the civil rights movement. On that day, there are often marches, speeches and good works performed--such as visita- tions to nursing homes, aid provided for the poor, workshops done on tolerance, homes built with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, and interfaith dialogues. I felt, as a Jewish journalist in Orlando, that perhaps the best contribution I could make to the spirit of the day would be to interview Imam Muhammed E. Musri, the spiritual leader of the Orlando Muslim community. We chatted about the exploitation of a joke about Israelis at UCF and a number of other issues. President of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, Musri oversees 10 of Greater Or- lando's 16 mosques. Married to a physician, Musri is the father of six and serves as one of NPR's three "Wise Guys," the Orlando-based radio talk show of interfaith and tolerance, with a touch of wit, featuring "a rabbi, a rev- erend, and an imam." (It sounds like a lead-in to a joke where the trio walks into a bar, but in this case it's to walk into a radio studio and field phone calls about tolerance.) The rabbi of the show is Congregation of Reform Ju6aism's Rabbi Steven Engel; the reverend is the Reverend Bryan Fulwider, a fellow at Rollins College. Musri is an exponent of strong Muslim- Jewish ties. "I am in constant dialogue with Rabbi Engel of CRJ and Rabbi [David] Kay of [Congregation] Ohev Shalom," Musri empha- sized. "And I have done programs in the past with Rabbi [Rick] Sherwin of [Congregation] Beth Am. Our Muslim school, the Leadership Prep Academy, has done programs with the Holocaust Center and the Jewish Academy. Our children have both done anti-bullying workshops together." The imam emphasized that his mosques are always open to the general public. "We have no secrets." He has never been to Israel but says he would "love to go." Musri, who says his favorite Jewish foods are "bagels," seems quite knowledgeable about Orlando's Jewish community, and notes the strong similarities between the faiths. "We call God: Allah. One of your main Hebrew words, Elohim, is from the same root." Musri discussed at length the strong scholarship between Muslims and Jews that dates back to the seventh century and pointed out that, "Moses is mentioned in the Quran far more than Mohammed is." "There are many hate groups in Florida," Musri said somberly. He noted that hate groups tend to target "gays, Muslims and abortion clinics--as if these groups are all Center is the target of hate phone calls and threats, which the FBI can trace. In its important report on hate activity in Florida, the Anti-Defamation League's "Extremism in Florida: The Dark Side of the Sunshine State," details activity by the KKK, skinhead group, racist prison gangs, racist biker gangs, and white supremacists groups who have ties to Central Florida. Some of these groups disseminate hate speech, and get together for rallies in Tampa, Orlando, Ocala and Jacksonville that may include swas- tika waving and tattooing--and sometimes eventual violence. The Southern Poverty Law Center's "hate map" shows re.ore than 50 established hate groups in Florida, including anti-Muslim ones. According to the SPLC, "These groups also typically hold conspiratorial views regarding the inherent danger to America posed by its Muslim-American community. Muslims are depicted as a fifth column intent on undermining and eventually replacing American democracy and Western civiliza- tion with Ilamic despotism, and are trying to subvert the rule of law by imposing on Americans their own Islamic legal system, Shariah." When asked about the possibility of Shariah taking over the United States, Musri could not suppress a giggle. "Impossible," he simply chuckled. "There isn't a country in the world that imposes Shariah 100 percent. MostArab nations have a combination of Shariah, tribal customs and secular laws." Musri called the possibility of Shariah overtaking the Consti- tution meshuginah, using the playful Yiddish term for "crazy" or "daft." Musri said he believes that anti-Muslim phobias and hysteria have gone through a cycle. "After 9/11, there was obviou'sly much ignorance about Muslims and anti-Muslim fever. This waned, but in 2008, Obama was perceived to be a 'secret Muslim,' and often in sociology, when there is any economic downturn, an ethnic group is blamed, as Jews were blamed in pre-war Germany." He says that because politics are polarizing in the Middle East, some try to bring those dichotomies to American soil. Musri tried unsuccessfully to prevent a Quran burning ceremony in Gainesville a few years back, and met with Christians who held him at gun point. Musri marched Sunday in the annual Or- lando Interfaith Council of Central Florida march honoring slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King with Mayor Buddy Dyer, other Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs in order to demonstrate Orlando's solidarity. "An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us," Musri averred. Richard Reis is a staff writer and an account executive for Heritage Florida Jewish News. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 41 Press Awards Edltor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. - Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Richard Ries POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Jifil Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bomstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman David Gaudio Teri Marks email: Elaine 8chooping Gil Dombrosky Caroline Pope Semitism--remains terribly important for the country. Important leaders from all communities must follow King's lead. More specifically, King's condemnation of anti-Semitism was and is important for his own African-American community. For too long, levels of anti-Semitic attitudes have been too high. And some African-American cultural figures utter sentiments about Jews and Jewish power that remain very troubling. Not only did King react against blatant anti- Serhitism, but early on he anticipated the more sophisticated versions. In an appearance at Harvard, as reported by the scholar Seymour Martin Lipset in his book, "The Socialism of Fools," King responded to a hostile question about Zionism, "When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews; you are talking anti-Semitism." Third, King understood the importance of standing up for other minorities both as a value and to strengthen support for his work on behalf of African Americans. Perhaps King's greatest legacy was his conviction that justice for black people could not be achieved in a vacuum, that all Americans must live free from oppression in order to guarantee freedom. Why was obtaining civil rights for African Americans so important to the American Jew- ish community? Because it was the right thing to do, and because it was good for all and built coalitions in fighting all forms of prejudice. Fourth, King knew that power politics were important to bring change. Speeches, marches, demonstrations and sit-ins were all about power ultimately, appealing to the moral values, the goodness and long-term interests of those who needed to change--the white majority--was the key to changing society. In the long run, however, changing hearts and minds through education and appealing to the best instincts of America is the real solution. Fifth, the civil rights revolution led by King also further opened up America for Jews and is one of the key elements as to why today American Jews are the freest community in the 2,000-year history of the Diaspora and why things are so much better for Jews today than 60 or 70 years ago. Civil rights legislation allowed Jews to chal- lenge their exclusion. Even more, the revolution changed society in a way that being different and expressing one's differences was no longer a liability. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work in seeking equality for all was consistent with the values expressed by the Jewish sage Hillel two millennia ago: "If I am not for me, who will be?" One must have pride and stand up for one's own. "If I am only for myself, what am I?" To be fully human, one must go beyond one's own problems and stand up for others. "If not now, when?" Justice delayed is justice denied. These values were King's values. Too often in society today we stray from them. This 50th anniversary of his "I Have a Dream" speech is a good time to recommit to those things that brought us all together. Kenneth Jacobson is deputy national director politics. But he profoundly understood that of theAnti-Defamation League. r00m'srae00 I normal country...sometimes Israel is more than intense argument about political candidates, religion, security and all the other important issues subject to dispute by Jews who are Talmudic in their style even if they are not religious. Occasionally, it is like other countries: fasci- nated with the weather. Over recent five-day stretch, the unofficial rain gauge on our balcony measured 33 cm ( 13 inches) drain. This morning (Jan. 10) itwas doggedwith about 15 cm (6 inches) snow. The view from the same balcony where occasionally we can see the buildings of Amman, about 60 krn (35 miles) away on the next mountain ridge, was limited to a snow covered tree about 3 meters distant. I found my boots at the back of a closet, put them on for perhaps the third time in 15 years, and went outside to find lots of neighbors also with cameras to record their images of nature's spectacle. This is my second such adventure in two years, but I'll avoid comment about global warming. The city--and much ofthe country--is closed. No political commentary on early morning radio. Only lists ofplaceswhere there is no school, roads closed and no public transportation. In order to keep private cars offthe roads, Jerusalem declared free rides on buses and light rail. Early this morn- ing, however, the buses were still in their parking lots. The light rail worked until about 7 a.m., then it fell victim to a problem that was hoped to be fixed before long. Roads to the capital were dosed. The crowds wanting to bring their kids to see the snow in the mountains were urged to wait for the train, assuming that it continues to operate, and that passengers can move from the terminal in a non-photogenic part of Jerusalem other than by foot. Earlier in the week the stories were about overflowed stream beds that are dry most of the year, and residents having to be rescued by rubber boats or helicopters. This is certain to be a short vacation from what usually bothers us. Already at 7.'45 Israel radio left the weather and returned to the election. We'.re now in the season of hour-long broadcasts on radio and television with clips provided by each of the 34 political parties fielding candidates for the Knesset. Some are interesting and even funny. My favorite is that of Power to Israe ! , the most right wing of the parties close to the boundaries of racism with several of its leading candidates loyal to the memory of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from politics due to anti-Arab outbursts. The clip done by this party beginswith its two major candidates making their appeal in Arabic. Other party clips show their leaders in full drama. We see Bibi time and again giving rous- U.S. Congress. A competing dip shows Yair Lapid mimicking Bibi's use of a cartoon portraying what must be done about Iran's- nuclear program. We see the leaders of Kadima and Meretz in pictures from their childhood, with praise of their parents and marvel of what they have become. Labor's Shelly Yechimovich includes a testimony by her mother, as well as Shelly talking about her own cooking and children. The Ha'aretz cartoon shows the ancient rabbi of SHAS, and the two leading candidates watch- ing Shelly in the kitchen and praising her as an ideal woman. Tsipi Livni makes a point that this time she is in politics to stay, suggesting that her advisers are worried that too many voters accept the charges that she will go home again if she doesn't get to be Prime Minister or at least Foreign Minister. SHAS and Torah Judaism emphasize their concern for the poor and aged of Israel. One of SHAS's clips has brought forth charges of racism due to por- traying a caricatured Russian of doubtful Jewish background trying to marry a man with obvious Jewish features. One of the minor parties enter- tains us by advocating political freedom along with access to marijuana.Another emphasizes its fervent opposition to pornography as a national menace. And a party calling itself Pirates seems to be urging the free downloading of songs and films from the Internet despite international copyright protections. An Arab-Jewish party is trying to win votes by forswearing nationalism and emphasizing benefits for the poor of both communities. Two new Jewish religious parties are making messianic appeals that only they hold the keys to whatever is eternal. The maturation of recent immigrants is apparent in the lack of clips in Russian. I've noticed two party clips that are in Arabic only, without Hebrew subtitles. Each of the established parties gets time in proportion to its seats in the Knesset, with new parties given much smaller allocations. This leads the bigger parties to repeat the same clips time and again, which sends even this political maven to something else. Leaders of the three centrist parties are trying to differentiate themselves from another with some nastiness about personalities. Likud Our Home would like to stifle the drift of its voters to Jewish Home. Each party's stars are accusing their rivals of naivete, unreliability, inexperience and in some cases likely to bring the country to disaster via military adventures or a failure to stay within the good graces of the United States and Western Europe. The chair of the Election Commission, a Justice of the Supreme Court, has ruled some of the clips out of bounds. The forecast for this afternoon through next week is more regular weather and lots of politics. Ira Sharkansky is professor emert?us in the Department of Political Science at Hebrew ing speeches with standing applause befor e the univsit.y, ofJe.alem.. .......