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February 14, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 14, 2014 The Meaning of Israel: A Personal View By David A. Harris Against the backdrop of re- cent efforts in some academic circles to vilify and isolate Israel, let me put my cards on the table right up front. I'm not dispassionate when it comes to Israel. Quite the contrary. The establishment of the state in 1948; the fulfillment of its envisioned role as home and haven for Jews from around the world; its whole- hearted embrace of democ- racy and the rule of law; and its impressive scientific, cultural, and economic achievements are accomplishments beyond my wildest imagination. For centuries, Jews around the world prayed for a return to Zion. We are the lucky ones who have seen those prayers answered. I am grateful to wit- ness this most extraordinary period in Jewish history and Jewish sovereignty. The age-old biblical, spiri- tual, and physical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is unique in the annals of history. And when one adds the key element, namely, that all this took place not in the Middle West but in the Middle East, where Israel's neighbors determined from day one to destroy it through any means available to them--from full- scale wars to wars of attrition; from diplomatic isolation to international delegitimation; from primary to secondary to even tertiary economic boycotts; from terrorism to the spread of anti-Semitism, often thinly veiled as anti- Zionism--the story of Israel's first 65 years becomes all the more remarkable. No other country has faced such a constant challenge to its very right to exist. Indeed, that connection is of a totally different character from the basis on which, say, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the bulk of Latin American countries were established, that is, by Europeans with no legitimate claim to those lands who decimated indig- enous populations and pro- claimed their own authority. Or, for that matter, North African countries that were conquered and occupied by Arab-Islamic invaders and totally redefined in their national character. No other country has faced such overwhelming odds against its very survival, or experienced the same degree of never-ending international demonization by too many nations that throw integrity and morality to the wind, and slavishly follow the will of the energy-rich and more numerous Arab states. Yet Israelis have never suc- cumbed to a fortress mental- ity, never abandoned their deep yearning for peace with their neighbors or willingness to take unprecedented risks to achieve that peace, never lost their zest for life, and never flinched from their deter- mination to build a vibrant, democratic state. This story of nation-build- ing is entirely without prec- edent. Here was a people brought to the brink of utter destruc- tion by the genocidal policies of Nazi Germany and its allies. Here was a people shown to be utterly powerless to influence a largely indifferent world to stop, or even slow down, the Final Solution. And here was a people, numbering barely 600,000, living cheek-by- jowl with often hostile Arab neighbors, under unsympa- thetic British occupation, on a harsh soil with no significant natural resources other than PAGE 5A human capital in then Manda- tory Palestine. That the blue-and-white flag of an independent Israel could be planted on this land, towhich the Jewish people had been intimately linked since the time of Abraham, just three years after World War II's end--andwith the support of a decisive majority of U.N. members at the time--truly boggles the mind. And what's more, that this tiny community of Jews, including survivors of the Holocaust who had somehow made their way to Mandatory Palestine despite the British blockade, could successfully defend themselves against the Harris on page 15A By Naomi Paiss NEWYORK (JTA)--On her way out the door to defend the SodaStream company, the suddenly political Scarlett Johannson threw a grenade at her erstwhile cause, the international aid organization Oxfam. According to her spokes- person, "she and Oxfam have a fundamental difference of opinion in regards to the boycott, divestment and sanc- tions movement." Full stop. The global boy- cott, divestment and sanc- tions movement, which har- bors more than a few people who want to put the entire Boycotting settlements is not anti-Israel project of a Jewish homeland out of business, is not the is- sue between Johannson and Oxfam. SodaStream has its main factory in the occupied territories. The company is Contributing to the health and prosperity of the occupation while providing income for the settlement enterprise--an enterprise that is corroding Israeli democracy, deemed "illegitimate" by the American governmentand considered il- legal under international law. Boycotting goods and ser- vices coming from the settle- ments, although sometimes difficult to implement in practice, means putting one's money where one's mouth is, if one has been saying that the settlements are an impedi- ment to the two-state solution and to peace. What's so hard to under- stand about that? My organization, the New Israel Fund, which supports more than 100 progressive civil society organizations in Israel at any given time, made a clear distinction some years ago in our funding guidelines. We don't fund organizations with global BDS programs. We will not disqualify orga- nizations for funding if they support the boycott of settle- ment goods because we see it as entirely consistent with our opposition to the occu- pation, our defense of Israeli democracy and our support for a two-state solution. So let's take a look at those who are profiting from blur- ring the lines--the Green Line, to be precise. The cur- rent Israeli government and itswell-funded organizational allies have popularized the word "delegitimization" to describe opposition to Israel. But in making no distinction between calls to boycott Israel itself and calls to boycott the settlement enterprise, they are deliberately conflating two very different things while erasing the distinction be- tween Israel inside the Green Line--the pre-1967 border with the West Bank--and mil- itary control of settlements in the territories. Defunding the settlements equals delegitimi- zation equals anti-Semitism equals destruction of Israel as a Jewish state, or so goes their formula. Those for whom any progress toward ending the occupation is their worst nightmare have been some- what successful at making this false equivalence stick. The truth is, Israel has real adversaries who equate Zionism with racism. But it is also true that criticizing Israeli government policy, especially support for the settlement enterprise, is not delegitimizing Israel. Accord- ing to last year's Pew study, only 17 percent of American Jews believe the settlements help Israeli security. Do the other 83 percent not think that Israel is legitimate? By some accounts, the Palestinians who work at So- daStream are well treated by the standards of occupation enterprises. But suggesting that those Palestinians don't have much choice about their employmentbecause theWest Bank is entirely aid depen- dent, and because it's hard to have avibrant economy under foreign military control-- that's not delegitimizing Paiss on page 15A Outreach to interfaith families strengthens the Jewish future By RickJacobs NEW YORK (JTA)--Ali in favor of a strong Jewish future say "aye." On that core question, there is resounding unanimity, but there have been some unnecessarily po- larizing articles in the Jewish press suggesting that we have to select either endogamy or outreach. Nonsense! Such binary thinking reduces a multi- dimensional and complex reality to a false choice. At the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial in San Diego a few weeks back, I challenged Jewish leaders to stop speak- ing "about intermarriage as if it were a disease. It is not." I do not know how any serious observer of American Jewish life can believe that in the aftermath of the Pew Research Center's study of Jewish Americans and other surveys, intermarriage is anything but a reality of Jewish life. Many characterize inter- marriage as the result of assimilation. There is some obvious truth in this view, but I believe that higher inter- marriage rates are largely the result of the open society in which we are privileged to live. The sociology is clear enough. Anti-Semitism is down. Jews feel welcome. We mix easily with others. So, of course, there are high inter- marriage rates. The pressing question is, how do we respond? High intermarriage rates require a thoughtful response. Deliver- ing endless sermons about the importance of endoga- Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to JAO open to explore all options concerning future Dear Editor: We have received ques- tions about the articles which appeared in last week's Heritage regarding Jewish Academy of Orlando, including one proposed plan that suggests Jewish Academy of Orlando (JAO) will be moving from its cur- rent building. We want to address this directly as we reiterate our commitment to a vibrant and financially my--or making apocalyptic arguments--is not going to dissuade young people from falling in love with someone who is not Jewish. Ifthatwere the case, we would not be where we are today. Intensifying and deepening Jewish engagement for the next generation is an essential undertaking that forms the cornerstone of "Inspired En- gagement," our large-scale, new URJ response. Our new youth engagement strategies reflect our broadly inclusive definition of Jewish com- munity that seeks to include, educate and embrace, among others, children of interfaith families. Many in the "endogamy camp" argue that outreach to interfaith families is not an effective communal in- sound Jewish community for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. JAO's lease term runs to year 2027 to house our much beloved K-8th-grade day school. We only want success for the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and greatly value our relationship with it and the other community agencies. We look forward to having an active role in any discussions about the future of our combined campus. This proposal is just one of several preliminary conver- sations to address the Fed- eration's long-term debt, the rest of which have not been published in the Heritage. Jewish Academy of Orlando has communicated to the vestment. At the heart of this debate is the allocation of communal resources. But the impact of outreach to interfaith families--when thoughtfully and effectively deployed--matters. Consider Boston, where Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Phi- lanthropies, has made out- reach to interfaith families a communal norm across all Jewish institutions, including synagogues. The number of interfaith families raising Jewish children has doubled. Jews marrying Jews is a blessing; the long-term demo- - graphic projections are clearly more encouraging when Jews marry other Jews. Creating pathways for Jews and non- Jewish partners to create active Jewish homes also is a Federation that it is open to exploring all options to address these issues. JAO will continue to provide its students with a first-class education, and we do not anticipate any near term facility changes. Current enrollment is stronger than at any time over the past five years as families continue to value the outstanding Jewish Acad- emy of Orlando's grade K-8 education. The long-term answer to these issues will be increased enrollment in both the JCC preschool and Jewish Academy of Orlando. --The Executive Commit- tee of the Board of Direc- tors of Jewish Academy of Orlando blessing, the sacred challenge of our time. However, talk of endogamy will not change r outcomes. Only our actions can create change. Going forward, the Reform movement's singular focus is to make sure that a widening, not shrinking, circle of young people in our community experiences a Judaism that is deep, compelling and in- clusive. Simultaneously, they must hear from their Jewish leaders that interfaith couples can be and are supported in their effort to raise deeply committed Jewish families, especially when they do so in an inclusive Jewish commu- nity that is offered uniquely by the Reform movement. While other voices will surely proclaim that endog- amy is the only effective way to have a committed Jewish family, the Reform movement has something altogether dif- ferent to say: Jewish commit- ment can be established in a Jacobs on page 14A Dry Bones