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February 1, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY" 1, 2013 PAGE 5A FSU governments must act against rising ultranationalism By Mark Levin and Anna Chukhno WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Friends of Russia and Ukraine are worried. The Russian gov- ernment's recurring rhetoric about foreign meddling and fundamental differences be- tween Russian and Western values is spurring national- ism. With Ukraine divided along linguistic and religious lines, many Ukrainians disil- lusioned by pervasive corrup- tion and government inept- ness are turning to nationalist ideology. The Ukrainian right-wing Svoboda party has found fertile ground campaigning on a platform that combines By Andrew Silow-Carroll New Jersey Jewish News I have a longstanding argument with an elder over interfaith marriage and'Jew- ish assimilation. He blames the liberal denominations for dropping the taboo on intermarriage. I counter that liberal Judaism was an inevitable response to enor- mous social changes, and the liberal movements only "expanded the possibilities for Jewish engagement. Neithei of us "wins" the argument. He longs for the thick ethnic stew of his Brooklyn chi!dhood; I earn a living chronicling the myriad Jewish choices available in the 21st century. We both wish that more Jews took their heritage more seriously, however they wish to express it. We agree there is a chal- lenge; we disagree whether or not Jewish leaders could have held back the tide. I had a similar reaction to a recent essay by Jane By Moshe Kantor BRUSSELS (JTA)--One of the seminal slogans of the 20th century was the historic refrain "Never again!" This cry that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust was meant to ensure that there would be no repeat of the greatest tragedy in modern European history. The refrain remains hol- low if it remains a theoreti- cal verbiage uti.lized during speeches and ceremonies but lacking any real intent and action. In recent years, a seem- ingly long dormant ideology returned to a semblance of power for the first time since the unconditional surrender of the German forces on May 8, 1945. For the first time in well over six decades, political parties that require members to be of "Aryan origin," have full armed and open-fisted salutes, have logos distinctly resembling the swastika and call for a census of Jews are back in Europe. These elements are no longer consigned to the beer halls, isolated farm retreats or the margins of European political discourse. They are moving closer and closer to the mainstream. In fact, this newfound po- litical confidence is reflected in the street, where more and more Jews are being physi- xenophobic, anti-Russian and anti-Semitic elements. On many occasions, Svoboda has called Jews and Russians en- emies of the Ukrainian nation, opposed the annual pilgrim- age of Breslov Chasidim to the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman and sought com- memoration of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that fought alongside the Nazis. When Igor Miroshnichens- ko, a member of the Ukrainian Legislature, publicly used the word "zhyd," a derogatory term for a Jew, he sparked a wave of right-wing national- ism and anti-Semitism in the Ukrainian Social media. Beset by increasing au- thoritarianism, widespread Eisner, editor-in-chief of the Forward, titled "For 2013, A Marriage Agenda." A "committed feminist," Eis- ner admits to a very un-PC anxiety: The "non-Orthodox birthrate in America is far below replacement level." Young non-Orthodox Jews are marrying later and hav- ing fewer children. Between one-third and one-half are 'marrying non-Jews. As a result, she Writes, "the future of egalitarian, progres- sive American Judaism" is endangered. This puts Eisner in the un- comfortable position of"over- emphasizing traditional marriage and child-rearing at the expense of other paths to self-fulfillment'and service, for men as well as women." Nevertheless, she concludes, it may be time to "promote marriage as the foundation for a healthy Jewish culture." Eisner doesn't flesh out what form such "promotion" could take, although presum- ably it begins with soapboxes corruption, nepotism and disrespect for the rule of law, many Ukrainians find in such ideology an appealing alter- native to the government's status qua. In Ukraine's last parliamentary elections, Svoboda received more than 10 percent of the vote, up from less than I percent four years ago. In Russia, President Vladi- mir Putin's administration has turned to nationalism and anti-Americanism to curtail domestic opposition. On Dec. 28, Putin approved a controversial law banning adoptions Of Russian children by Americans. Severe laws criminalizing libel have been reinstated. Restrictive laws aimed at international NGOs label them agents of foreign governments. Last September, the U.S. Agency for Interna- tional Developmentwas forced out of the country. We find the recent develop- ments alarming. Already the growing authoritarianism has sparked a new wave of potential emigration among the intelligentsia and business community. If this wave con- tinues, it would be a sad loss to both countries, as these are the populations that also represent the countries' great- est resource for economic growth, social stability and a democratic future. Faced with economic un- certainties, the search for na- Natal attraction like hers, and perhaps contin- ues on the bimas of egalitar- ian, progressive synagogues. Jack Wertheimer of the Jewish Theological Seminary wrote a similarly 'natalist" piece for Commentary a few years ago. He blamed liberal rabbis for having rejected "tra- ditional Jewish teachings" in order to "welcome Jews who live in unconventional family arrangements, and in particu- lar to eliminate any negative judgment of gays and lesbians." Wertheimer urges rabbis and Jewish communal leaders to do a better job of emphasizing "the power of Jewish norms and obligations" as they relate to marriage. Blaming Jewish institu- tions for undermining Jewish family values always struck me as odd, however: Ask the average single person or childless couple how com- fortable they feel in suburban synagogues. Hardly "free to be you and me" Neerlands, synagogues tend to oper- ate on the assumption that "family" means two spouses with kids. Eisner doesn't play the blame game, She thinks straight people can learn from gays and lesbians who "fought  so bravely for the right to marry." But, like Wertheimer, she believes in the power of the pulpit and bully pulpit to elevate in- marriage', earlier marriage and larger Jewish families as communal priorities. This puts me right back into my argument with my elderly friend. Eisner acknowledges that Jews are subject to broader societal trends: Highly educated men and women often postpone marriage, and Jews are more accepted than ever. Butwhere she puts her faith in a Jew- ish agenda, I can't imagine change without policies that would encourage Jews to marry younger and have children younger--for ex- ample, a much better system of day care and more flexible workplaces that don't force tional identity and fragile civil institutions, the popular anti- Semitism that is always latent in these societies is now more visible and suddenly a possible threat to its Jewish populations. To counter this, the govern- ments of Russia and Ukraine need to address real issues such as corruption, the weak rule of law and economic in- stability. Better mechanisms to confront extremists' politi- cal messages need to be devel- oped, and the governments' condemnation of anti-Semitic sentiments and incitement to ethnic or racial hatred needs to be consistent and timely. Russia and Ukraine must em- brace a nationalistic ideal that encourages inclusiveness and women (and; less typically, men) to choose between their careers and raising kids. I despair, politically and culturally, of seeing such poli- cy changes anytime soon. The Working Families Flexibility Act has been kicking around Congress for six years now. It would require employers to offer more part-time sched- ules and remove the stigma from workers who take time off to raise a family (or care for an elderly relative). (Israel understands the link between public policy and personal choices. The state offers free in vitro fer- tilization procedures for up to two children, subsidized housing loans for families with three or more children, and 26 weeks--14 paid--of maternity leave.) Unfortunately, an eco- nomically ravaged America is in no mood for flexibility at the moment. Which doesn't mean that you need an act of Congress to shape Jewish values. I agree Passivity against racism leads to disaster tally and verbally attacked in the open. The Golden Dawn party in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary and Svoboda in Ukraine are just three examples of Eu- ropean political parties that have moved well beyond the historic far right and still unacceptable discourse of those like Le Pen's National Front and the Freedom Party in Austria. -We appear to be entering a new phase in European politi- cal history that has extremely worrying parallels with the past. Of course, many will ar- gue that none of these parties currently have great power. But at what point will their power be too much? It's a question that all decision makers, opinion shapers and law enforcement agencies in Europe must ask. Not in a theoretical sense, but in a very real pract!cal sense. The Jewish people and other minorities who are in the direct line of fire from this maleficent hate have no doubts that this threshold already has passed, and it is having a. very real practical effect on the streets. A recent survey found that 63 percent of Hungarians are willing to affirm their anti-Semitism with no shame. On Sunday, the interna- tional community observed International Holocaust Re- membrance Day to remember the victims 6f the Holocaust and learn its lessons. A few days prior, I visited the seat of European governance, the European Parliament, which was the joint recipient of the recent Nobel Prize for Peace, along with other European Union institutions. Along with many others, I lauded the Nobel for the European Union's commitment to peace and its success at unifying a continent that has known so much bloodshed. However, as Europeans, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels and claim that a lack of war or conflict means that the European Union has succeeded in creating a harmonious and peaceful continent that can prevent future catastrophes. As the number of Holocaust survivors begins to dwindle, many are witnessing some- thing that would have been unbelievable to them only a few short years ago The new groups, rapidly increasing in popularity, are emulating and co-opting the policies and ide- ology of those who murdered their families and brought to them untold suffering. There are too many Eu- ropeans, especially those among its leadership, who remember the death and destruction that follows the Nazi ideology and we, as. Europeans, should do every- thing we can to rid ourselves of this force that again tries to lay a dark shadow on our continent. We call on all figpres in Europe--media, cultural or academic--to use their platforms to assist the rid- ding of this disease. European politicians as a moral mass must adopt stricter legisla- tion proscribing groups that promote hate, discrimination and racism from European political institutions. There must also be a demand for tougher enforcement and punishment, and the strengthening of education toward tolerance. Some eight decades ago, the National Socialist Move- ment caught many by sur- prise, and most did not fully comprehend or believe that it would be willing or able to fulfill its genocidal and destructive platform. Living with this dark history in our relatively re&nt lifetime, we have no similar excuses. We know what this ideology seeks, we know what this rac- ist movement aspires to and we cannot let it get a foothold again on our continent. Just as eight decades ago, the Nazi ideology was able to take advantage of a financial recession, so we face similar economic challenges. This is when we must be at our most vigilant. We must beat back the advances of this ideol- ogy-not for the victims of the past but for the possible victims in the future. If we do not, then "Never again!" will remain a hollow term utilized during speeches and ceremonies. As the prominent Halo- mutual respect, foster educa- tion about xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and improve mechanisms of enforcing hate crime legislation. Inventing internal and ex- ternal enemies for the sake of national unity has a notorious history and no place in a dem- ocratic society. Xenophobia, radical nationalism and anti- Semitism have never been the road to a stable, peaceful and legitimate society. They are the errors of the past. Mark Levin is the executive director and Anna Chukhno is a program assistant at the NCSJ: National Conference Supporting Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia. with Eisner that we "need to figure out how to honor individual choice and the desire to move beyond ghet- toization with the communal need to promote marriage as the foundation for a healthy Jewish culture." But our demographic prob- lems didn't start with liberal sermons. They started on the day the first boatload of Jews set foot in America and were given a range of choices about how to live, and whether to live Jewishly at all. Anyone interested in promoting"natalism" among young Jews has to ask how much of these freedoms and choices they are willing to give up, and what structural changes have to be made to make a difference. Otherwise, it's just hand-wringing. Andrew Silow-Carroll is Editor-in-Chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, from which this article was reprint- ed by permission. Between columns you can read his writing at the JustASC blog. caust historian Yehuda Bauer said, "Thou shait not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." Moshe Kantor is president of the European Jewish Con- gress and co-chairman of the European Council on Toler- ance and Reconciliation. Dry Bones