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February 18, 2011

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 18, 201! PAGE lr:. Mubarak's fall heralds new power player in the Mideast: the Arab street By Uriel Heiiman NEW YORK (JTA)--Hosni Mubarak's resignation last Friday from Egypt's presi- dency following three weeks of intense Street demonstrations raises a host of questions not just for the future of Egypt and its peace treaty with Israel, but for the entire Middle East. The most remarkable fea- ture of the developments in Egypt--and several weeks before it, the ouster of the longtime dictator of Tunisia amid similar protests--is the introduction of a major new power player in the Middle East: the Arab street. Until recently the Arab street--essentially, popular will--was viewed typically as little morethan an irritant by autocratic regimes from Cairo to Tehran that sought to repress its power or, oc- casionally, redirect its anger against some outside foe such as Israel or the United States. When massive street pro- tests greeted the dubious re-election in June 2009 of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the govern- ment's deadly security tactics repressed popular will, and the Persian street eventually was rendered irrelevant. But the success of the Arab street in Egypt and Tunisia raises the prospect that Arabs elsewhere in the autocratic Middle East will feel embold- ened to rise up and seek to overthrow their unelected leaders. Protesters in Yemen and Jor- dan already have staged mas- sive demonstrations against their governments, and small- er protests have taken place in Algeria and Syria. In Iran, the government is trying to keep a budding protest movement in check for fear it will redirect its rage toward the regime in Tehran. For Israel and its allies, the ascendancy of the Arab street could be a game changer. While Israel has cultivated relationships with the leaders of many of these countries--in some cases, as in Saudi Arabia, with Washington as an inter- mediary--the Arab street still largely reviles Israel. In Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries that have full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, professional unions still maintain a boycott against any interaction with Israeli colleagues. A 2009 Pew Research Center survey con- ducted in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon showed unfavorable views of Jews at 95 percent, 97 percent and 98 percent, respectively. So if the Arab street becomes more powerful, Israel's relation- ships in the Middle East will be at risk. For example, while the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia see eye to eye on such issues as the Iranian nuclear threat and the rising danger of Shiite power, includ- ing Hezbollah's ascendancy in Lebanon, the Saudi people-- like the people in Egypt and Jordan--are more inclined to view Israel as a hated foe rather than a country with which they share common cause. On the other hand, if coun- tries such as Egypt or Tunisia were to become true democ- racies, they could become inherently more stable and less belligerent toward Israel. In this respect, Turkey could be the model:ademocracy in aMuslim country whose relationship with Israel persists even at times when its government and people engage in harsh, anti-Israel rhetoric. Until the situations in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East sort themselves out, it seems there is little Israel can do but wait, watch and pray for the best. That's not the case for the United States, which wields influence in Arab capitals through a combination of aid, trade and diplomacy. With future control over the reins of power uncertain, however, the United States is trying to keep all its options open. The balancing act the Obarna administration has tried to prac- tice throughout the Egyptian crisis offers a prime example. With Egypt a longtime reli- able and stable ally, President Obarna did not want to alien- ate Mubarak in the event that he stayed in power; otherwise, Washington would be viewed as a turncoat, not a friend. But if the street were to triumph, Obama did not want to be seen as an enemy of Egyptian popular will. With Mubarak now gone, it's not clear whether Obama's balancing act did the trick-- especially because it's not at all clear who will lead Egypt. If the Egyptian army con- trois the reins of power, either overtly or behind the scenes, it is likely that the situation will not change drastically in the near term. The army, much of it funded by the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt, is vested in its positive relation- ship with the United States and its working relationship with Israel. Along with the Mubarak regime, the army has been key to the fight against Islamic terrorism, and it has helped contain Hamas in the Gaza Strip and kept anti-Israel ele- rnents in Egypt at bay. The only thing that seems assured is that more uncer- tainty lies ahead, in Cairo and beyond. Collecting Lincoln: The making of a national treasure By Edmon J. Rodman LOS ANGELES (JTA)--On President's Day Monday, while remembering Washington and Lincoln, perhaps take a minute as well for Stern. Little known outside of bib- liophiles and Civil War buffs, one of the greatest private col- lectorsofworks aboutAbraham Lincoln was a Jewish clothing manufacturer executive from Chicago named Alfred Whital Stern. About three score and one year ago, in 1950,aworldoftime before shows such as "Antique Road Show" brought collecting to the public's attention, and films such as "National Trea- sure," put Americana in vogue, Stern donated his world-class collectionofmre Lincolnbooks, papers and memorabilia to the Library of Congress. "The treasures are quite spectacular," said Clark Evans, head of reference services in the Rare Book Reading Room of the Library of Congress. Comprised of more than 11,000 manuscripts, broad- sides, portraits, political car- toons, newspapers, medals, artifacts, autographs and sheet music, and occupying its own room in the Washington library, the gift is known as the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana. Additionally, Stern donated funds for an endowment, which ran out only recently, so that additional works could be acquired. Stern's collection reflects his captivation with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, as it contains 36 different editions. Among its highlights is a letter written by Lincoln to Gen. Joseph Hooker in 1863 offering him the command of the Army of the Potomac. According to Evans, the letter purchased by Stem in 1941 for $15,000 "is universally regarded to be among Lincoln's greatest compositions." Also includedare several rare objects: a bronze life mask of Lincoln made in 1865 and a casting of Lincoln's hands, as well as Lincoln's scrapbook of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in which Lincoln wrote com- ments. At the time of the gift, the entire collection was valued at $1 million. Stern, a native New Yorker of German4ewish parents, lived most of his adult life in Chicago. He was married to Agnes Wolff Stern, and together they had three children, John, Nancy and Tom. His collecting of Lincoln books and papers began seem- ingly by accident. According to an article in the Quarterly Journalofthe Library of Congress, Sternwas onafam- ily vacation in 1923 in Atlantic City, N.J., when he discovered that some of his 7-year-old son John's schoolbooks had been left behind. While lookingforan"instruc- tive book" to fill in, Stern hap- pened upon "The Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln," edited by Gilbert Tracy. "All I knew then about Lin- coln was that he had been presi- dent of the United States," Stern is quoted as saying. "I decided that any man who expressed so much in so little was worth knowing. So I began reading and buying books about Lincoln." Every serious collector needs .someone with whom to share, and Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer says that someone for Stern was likely fellow Lincoln collector and good friend Henry Horner, the first Jewish gover- nor of Illinois. "They were pals," Holzer told JTA. "Among the thousands of works in the collection, Evans was able to find several items of particular interest to the Jewish history buff, including a book by Emanuel Hertz titled "Abraham Lincoln: The Tribute of the Synagogue." The book is a collection of sermons delivered from synagogue pulpits after Lincoln was assassinated. Did Stern's fascination with collecting works about the Great Emancipator connect to his Jewishness? Certainly he wanted Israel to know about Lincoln. In the 1940s Stern made his first major donation of more than 1,400 Lincoln books and documents to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. When he died in 1960 in his late 70s, a special ceremony was held on campus honoring his contribu- tion and life. "My father felt the people [in Israel] should know about Lin- coln, too," said Nancy Warner, Stem's daughter, who is now in her 90s and livingin Buffalo, N.Y. That collection, according to Brenda Coren, head of the general reading room for the humanities of the National Library of Israel, is now in the library's general reading room on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew University. Due to the fact that "most . of the non-Hebrew and Jewish books received by the !ibrary before 1985were, until recently, not included in the computer- ized catalogue," Coren wrote in an e-mail, the collection has "been consulted mainly by a few researchers of United States history who knew about the collection." "A project to computerize all the remaining card catalogue of the National Library is now under way," she wrote. Coren hopes the usage will increase when the project is completed by the end of 2011. An obituary in the Chicago Daily News described Stern as a "shy and modest man who made a comfortable fortune in business and spent a great part of it collecting books and manu- scripts on Abraham Lincoln for posterity." "He was not a religious man, but highly principled,,' said Warner, who maintained a close relationship with her parents. She recalled that as a child they "always spoke Ger- man when they didn't want us to understand." Rabbi Louis Mann of the Chi- cago Sinai Congregation wrote to Stern in 1950 thanking him for his donation to the Library of Congress. "Chicago Sinai Congregation rejoices that one of its members. has done such a noble thing," Mann wrote in a letter dated Dec. 6 of that year. As to who uses Stem's legacy, Evans noted that scholars such as Holzer, Douglas Wilson, Michael Burlingame and David McCuliough, as well as Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin, all have done Lin- coln research using the Stern collection. 'the beauty of the collection is to have everything related to Lincoln at ascholafs fingertips," said Evans, who added that access to the collection also is available to the public. "Stern was a monumental figure, his name is writ large in my mind of the Lincoln col- lectors," said Daniel Weinberg, proprietor of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago. The shop, within walking distance of Stem's Lakeshore Drive apartment, was where Stem often met with longtime friend and former owner Ralph Newman. "I had astandingauthority to get himwhateverbookhe didn't have," Newman wrote of the man he described as methodi- cal and looking like an English gentleman. Since Stem's death, the Stern family has kept contact with the Library of Congress, As recently as 2010, Warner trav- eled to Washington to visit the collection alongwith her grand- daughter, Lindsey Warner. "My father thought every- body should have a chance to look at his collection and learn about Lincoln," said Nancy Warner. Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Lifestyles Issue March 4, 2011 House and home,real estate, travel,food and dining,cars, fashion,jewelry, Judaica,entertain- ment, books, sports, games, music, art, crafts, hobbies and leisure, clubs and organizations, volunteering. Advertising Deadline: February 23, 2011 For More Information, Call: 407-834-8787