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February 24, 2012

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- PAGE 4A ']['he Good 00ord By David Born.stein. The power of one I had an epiphany recently. I was playing ten- nis, and playing terribly. I wasn't hitting the ball cleanly, wasn't seeing the ball, wasn't moving around the court like I knew I could. "Keep your head down," I told myself. "Take a full swing. Lead with your shoulder. Watch the ball. Move your feet." It was too much. My head spun. I did none of the things I told myself to do. And then I cleared my mind, caught my breath, and told myselfonesimplethought."Followyourshoulder to every ball." Suddenly, it all clicked. Because I ran with ny shoulder towards the ball, my body stayed closed longer. I didn't face the net when l hit. My eyes rfaturally stayed on the ball. I didn't jump up when I took a swing. My swing felt more natural. All because I focused on a single thought. I realized that practice is for tellingyourselfall the things that you need to do to improve. But when it comes time to do them, you just have to live it. You can't have too much cluttering your brain or you freeze. You tighten up. Instead of holding onto everything you've learned, you have to let go. I told this to my oldest son. who has just returned to pitching in college after nearly three years of recovering from injuries and surgeries. I thought he might be so anxious, sowouncLup he'd be thinking too much on the mound. "Find the one thing you need to focus on to pitch the way you want, and think of nothing else. Everything will flow from that thought." And then I moved from the trivial world of sports to the elevated world of the spirit. What is it about the one thought, the single focus that makes it so powerful? Is it because it's easier to grasp, easier to avoid confusion, more solid, more substantial in its completeness? Or is it 'I stand by my friend... the imam' By Rabbi Steven Engel In my bar and bat mitzvah classes, the students aregiven the opportunity to choose the mitzvot that are important to them. Inevitably, they always choose the mitzvah of l'shon hara. often translated as "idle gossip." But it is much more than this as its literal translation "evil tongue" implies. It is rancorous, hateful and hurtful speech and more often than not. untruthful. The great Chofetz Chayyim writes about it extensively. I ask the students to go to a newspa- per or website and bring an article that interests them. Thenwe get toworkinvestigatingwhether it is true, more often than not they are shocked to learn that it is not true. "But rabbi I read it in .the newspaper or saw it online" they say. "Don't believe everything you read" I say, "there is a lot of l'shon hara out there." Suchis the case with the Feb. 3 letter to the editor [Holocaust Center's program better served without Musri?] written by Alan Korn- man. What he says is a distortion of the facts. To say that Imam Musri was "raising funds for Hamas with George Galloway" is an outright lie" Perhaps if he would have taken the time to investigate the situation more fully, he would have drawn a different conclusion. But I guess this was not the point. "A picture or a YouTube video paints a thousand words," they say. That is as long it is not captioned and edited within an incorrect context? Butwhat is more bothersome is what his attack on the Imam represents and what his website says. "The United West is dedicated to defending and advancing Western Civilization against the kinetic and cultural onslaught of Shariah Islam" (The United West Website). What he and his conspiracy theory driven group do is to use a wide paintbrush over many Muslims and look for those to target. They incite people to believe that any American Muslim may pose a threat. There are Muslims in theworld that are extremists, fundamentalists and terrorists. I have spoken out against these people and believe that we should do all we can. including the use of physical force when necessary to alleviate this threat. This is congruentwith Judaism's teaching about self-defense. But what I will oppose, as a Jew in every way, is " smearing a hateful paintbrush over all Muslims. We Jews who have been painted, stereotyped and dhumanizedshould not--and cannot--do this to those Muslims who are peaceful, caring and religious people, and who are our neighbors and our friends. We Jews have been painted with the blackness of hatred and inquisitions and painted with the red of blood libels and death camps. Shame on those Jews who do to others what has been done to us. What I also will not do is abandon those Muslims who seek to build bridges and are an integral part of our community. We Jews know what it feels like to be abandoned by our neighbors as we are being singled out or stereotyped. Throughout history whole com- munities and countries turned their backs on us because of what propaganda and conspiracy theorists told about us. Shame on any Jew who abandons another good person, especially when our historical memory should trigger a feeling that we know how this feels. During the Holocaust there were non-Jews, who at the risk of their own lives, stood by, hid and rescued our family members from death. Such is the Besa exhibit that is referred to in Mr. Kornman's letter. We call them "Righteous Gen- tiles" and there are organizations formed, books written and even trees planted at the Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem) in Israel to honor them. This is because we Jews believe that to be Jewish is to do the right thing, even when many others do not, Individuals and organizations ' like Mr. Kornman's continue to defame and dehumanize those Muslim Americans who are no different than you and me. I wonder how many "Righteous Jews"will stand up and step forward and do the right thing, even when many others are not? How many will stand upwhen aMuslim neighbor, business associate or friend is attacked Simply because he is Muslim? Count me in as I stand by my friend of 12 years the imam, who is a man of impeccable integrity, justice and compassion. I hope others will step forward too. because our tradition demands it and our sense of morality requires it. Steven Engel is a Rabbi at Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando Florida. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. x x  CENTRAL FLORIDA'S INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher HE ' ITAGE HERITAGE Florida Jewish News IISN 0199-0721 J is published weekly for$37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ( $46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road. Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 emaih Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer Society Editor Editor at Large -Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Lyn Davidson Paulette Harmon Account Executives Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer . David Bomstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman * David Gaudio * Teri Marks Lori Apple Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky HERITAGE the very nature of its completeness that makes it so strong? I heard a story on National Public Radio about the increasing number of individuals who are living alone, and living more happily because of it. I am not one to espouse the single life, but at the same time I can acknowledge the simplicity of taking care of one's own needs without having to concern yourself ith anyone else. Eating what you want, when  you want. Setting your own schedule without worrying about how it fits with anyone eise's. These are tempting benefits to living alone. Of course, we used to sing that one is the loneliest number, and that can be true as well. We crave companionship, but what we crave, really, is like-minded companionship, someone who augments us, who makes us greater than our whole, whose life blends with ours so that over time we become a larger self. It's what makes for good relationships. It's why we call good couples a unit. And then I thought about what makes Judaism such a powerful unifying force to its members. There are countless old jokes about two Jews having three opinions, or congregations divided over what is right, standing or sitting, praying this way or that way. And on the surface it might appear that we are a divided house, with Reform. Conservative, and Orthodox with Chabadniks By Ira Sharkansky The onfluence of Barack Obama's prob- lem with contraception and Mitt Romney's candidacy reminds me of that often expressed sentiment that the United States is a "religion soaked" country. It leads Western democra- cies-including Israel for the incidence of people who express a belief in God and pray on a regular basis. The existence of the Mormon faith is part of the larger picture. It is arguably the most successful of the new religions created in the United States during the 19th century, along with Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists. and the now defunct Shakers. The Mormon faith (formally the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. or LDS) is also the most peculiar of the new faiths cre- ated in America: Its story begins with an angel who revealed a book of golden plates to Joseph Smith, together with magic spectacles that allowed its transla- tion from ancient Egyptian. The product, the Book of Mormon, tells astory of migration from Jerusalem to America across the Pacific. and Jesus' appearance to the migrants who became the Indians. The original book of golden plates disap- peared before its existence could be verified. Efforts are continuing, so farwithout persuasive results, to confirm the story of the migration. During the two sabbaticals I spent at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah I encountered highly educated colleagues who insisted on the literal truth of the Mormon nar- rative, others who admitted to quiet doubts as the price ofliing in a congenial and supportive community, and some who rebelled against their church, but remained in the communities (more often the case for people in Salt Lake City than Provo) for personal or family reasons. My wanderings and ongoing conversations have exposed me to parallel sentiments among more conventional Christians, as well as among Muslims and Jews. I'll admit to my own periods of varying degrees of adherence to Jewish practices. "Belief" is not emphasized in this tribal com- munity, as it is in religions that claim universal communities of the faithful. While currently I am a secular extremist. I remain fascinated by the phenomena of religion. My jury is still deliberating the question of whether religion is a positive or negative force. Those wanting to pursue the issue of Utah and Israel can find my article comparing them in the Journal of Church and State, Summer. 1997. available in most university libraries. Along the way to that article I encountered a BYU faculty member, intensely religious, who was refused tenure, and years later excommuni- cated. His sin was teaching that he understood the Book of Mormon as metaphorical rather than literal truth. The university has no Phi Beta Kappa chapter, at least partly, on account of doubts about academic freedom. Both Romney's nominatiofl and Obama's problem with Catholics are far from settled. At FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 24,. 2012 and Reconstructionists, but it is the rare. out of place Jew who insists we are not one people, one great congregation believing in one universal god. And it is the rare, out of place Jew who does not firmly support the state of Israel. And it is the rare. out of place Jew who does not acknowledge that it is the very fact of being Jewish that has given us a special place, a special, undeniable role in the world. To be a conscience, a healer, to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it. I was taught when I was young that early Christians created the trinity--the father, son, and holy ghost--so that their followers could more easily identify with the pantheon of gods thatwas their heritage. But really, maybe theyj ust confused the issue. Maybe they created a schism, too many points on which to focus, where we have always kept our eyes and mind on a single target. Many opinions perhaps, embraced under a single wide umbrella. But always one god. One people. One history. It's that power of one that has kept us alive and made us strong for so many years. And that's the good word. The opinions in this column are those of the writer and not the Heritage or any other individual, agency or organization. Send. your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@ present. Obama's problem reminds me of his problemwith Israelis. andwith more than a few American Jews, due to his insistence that there be no Jewish construction in East Jerusalem. That was a key element in a plan. unveiled three years ago, that Israel and Palestinians do what was obvious to make peace within a year's time. Aside from causing a problem for Varda about new curtains, and with other Israelis somewhat higher on the pecking order, that input of the president had little impact on peace or construction. Occasionally I perceive signs that the presi- dent may have learned something about the Middle East and recognizes that quiet is his best tactic. Yet there are continuing demands from the administration th.t Israel stop settl- mentactivity and getonwith the peace process. As always, it's impossible to know what is re- ally the key thinking in a huge, amorphouS. and competitive administration with lots of hangers-on. It is also far from certain how many American Jews will abandon their Democratic loyalties on account of the president's clumsi- ness with Israel. What is similar in his problems with Catholics and Israelis is a clash between ideological and pragmatic' clusters among American Demo- crats. One can guess that the same tensions occur within the persona of Barack Obama. On the one side are strong sentiments in favor of contraception and most likely abortion, and the justice of Palestinian claims. On the other side is a recognition that both issues are more complex. Neither birth control nor the Middle East is resolvable by the kind of bluster that plays well on a liberal college campus. So the president has a problem, or maybe two. Re-election will be difficult without Catholics, and there will be no Middle East peace without Israelis. Many Catholicwomenusebirth control, but a lot of Catholics object to the government's pressure on Catholic institutions. If Mitt Romney will be the Republican can- didate, we may hear assertions by no-nothings about polygamy, and maybe some more rea- soned questions about wine. coffee, and black tea at White House functions, or whether the LDS belongs in the community of Christianity. It's been a long time since John Kennedy had to argue with Protestant clerics about his relations with the Pope, but we have already heard some nasty things from anti-Mormon preachers. My search of the Internet and queries to Mas- sachusetts informants indicate that Governor Romney managed to navigate whatever prob- lems came from holding high church office in the context of intensely Catholic and intensely liberal Massachusetts. Those of us fascinatedwith religion, whether or not we believe in" any of the unbelievable. will have much to ponder between now and November and most likely beyond, no matter what happens in the politics of here. there or elsewhere. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus, Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He may be reached at