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February 24, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 24, 2012 By Elliot Jager Jewish Ideas Daily Stick an average alumnus of the Israeli public school system into a synagogue during morn- ing prayers, and chances are they would be bewildered. Even if they could recollect an arid Bible class they had to endure long ago, what good would it do them? They&apos;d still be lost. Israel's secular founders were. on the whole. Jewishly literate. But for all their practicality, they seemto have supposedthat their progeny would become versed in the Jewish canon through osmosis. Few Israeli secular poli- ticians have pushed for teaching Judaism. broadly defined, in the public schools. The Orthodox political parties, for their part. are happy to have public money for Jewish education directed to the parochial schools that their children attend. The result is that what many Israelis know about Judaism and Jewish religion is refracted through a prism of ignorance, folklore and the handiwork of an obscurantist taxpayer-funded religious establishment. Despite these self-inflicted wounds, the latest "Portrait of Israeli Jews." a report produced jointly by the Avi Chai Israel Foundatiori and the Israel De- mocracy Institute. confirms that lsraelis, in overwhelming numbers, see the religion of Israel as a cornerstone of Jewish statehood. The 121-page survey illuminates Israeli attitudes on identity, religious affiliation. ritual behavior andpeoplehood. Media coverage has emphasized that 80 percent ofAhe survey's respondents believe in God. 56 percent in an afterlife and 51 percent in the coming of the Messiah. Indeed. 24 percent say they have sought spiritual solace at the graves of righteous figures. But on closer examination, as the study itself notes, the In God they trust? data are replete with internal contradictions. There is plenty of evidence of Jewish attach- ment-and its opposite. Despite their awareness of the cultural differences between Israel and other nations. 73 percent of Israelis express a sense of com- mondestinywith Diaspora Jews. Almost all Jewish Israelis value religious life-cycle events, from circumcision to shiva. Similarly, 85 percent like the fact that traditional Jewish festivals are publicly observed. Most eat only kosher food, at home and outside: and 72 percent do not allow pork to cross their lips. But Israelis are selective in their practices. They cherish Shabbat as a day of rest. but not necessarily in ways that are meaningful to Orthodoxy. Many have aspecial Friday night meal and light Sabbath candles. Most dedicate the day to family. But, by and large, they don't want their cinemas and cafes shuttered on Shabbat; they don't want public transporta- tion to come to a halt or have restrictions placed on cultural or sporting events. Overall, 92 percent of Israelis agree that people's levels of observance do not determine whether they are good Jews. About half of Israelis, from all ethnic backgrounds, say their Jewishness trumps any other identity, with those who define themselves as traditional at- taching more importance to it. In a country where only state- certified Orthodox rabbis can conduct weddings half of the respondents want to see a civil marriage alternative.Amajority also want non-Orthodoxvariet- ies of Judaism to enjoy equal legal status. Most appear able to live with the Orthodox rabbin- ate's monopoly on conversions; but they would not necessarily expect converts to live Orthodox lifestyles, even though such lifestyles are precisely what the conversion authorities require. Some 48 percent would even acceptJewsth non-Orthodox conversions---if this were legal. Even a rigorously crafted survey like this one must use imperfect categories: Thus. those who are scrupulously observant and those who are insular haredim are lumped together as "ultra-Orthodox." Also, though the survey has just been released, it was done in 2009, before the latest swell in tensions between the ultra- Orthodox and the rest of Israeli society; it is a snapshot of one moment in time. What does all this add up to? It suggests that ifwewant Israe- lis tohave a deeper appreciation for Judaism as a religion and civilization, a greater invest- ment is required. The Israeli advantage of Hebrew literacy does not offset a disturbing lack of Jewish learning. There is small comfort in knowing most Israelis believe in God if they are woefully ignorant PAGE 5A about the sacred history that should inform that belief. The good news, however, is that most Israelis are Zionists: and most want Israel to be both aJewish and democratic state. tne way to pull these strands gether and strengthen them is to rethink the way Israelis are exposed to Judaism. The survey found that Israel is are not fond of the country's "either-or" school system, which forces them to ctegorize their children as either "Orthodox" or "secular" from kindergarten. Many want the option of sending their children to schools with more curricular integration. So. the good news is that the demand for pluralistic, traditional public education is real. Too bad. then. that such curricula receive pre- cious little governmentbacking. This article was first pub- lished by Jewish Ideas Daily <> and is reprinted with permis- sion. r Medicaid reforms need not undermine se wces By David Saperstein and William Daroff WASHINGTON (JTA)Dur- ing February, Jewish commu- nities across NorthAmericaob- serve Jewish Disability Aware- ness Month. It is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of the needs, strengths, opportunities and challenges of individuals with disabilities in our com- munities, and to ensure we are building more inclusive communities that celebrate all of our neighbors. The Jewish community, through its institutions and social service agencies, has been increasingly effective in serving the critical needs of individualswith disabilities and their families.At the same time, we recognize the indispensible impact that Medicaid has on the ability to provide for these needs. For many members of our communities with disabilities By Natalie Menaged seeking.healthy, independent lives. Medicaid is an essential resource. Earlier this month, Jewish leaders from across America came to Washington to express to Congress how vitally important Medicaid is to the disability community, as well as the agencies and communities that serve them. More than 8 million individ- ualswith disabilities inAmerica rely on Medicaid as their sole source of comprehensive health and long-term care coverage. Medicaid ensures that people with disabilities have access to essential services, including transportation, medical care and personal care assistance. This, in turn, ensures that they are able to contribute economically, socially, po- litically and spiritually to their communities. Unfortunately, under several prominent congressional pro- posals being considered as part of deficit reduction efforts, Med- icaid would be restructured by capping funds flowing to states and/or creating a block grant formula. Block granting or capping Medicaid funds would result in the denial of health and long-term care to millions of Americans. including those with disabilities. These kinds of spending cuts and harmful changes to Medicaid would undermine human dignity by limiting the hoices and opportunities for people with disabilities. Terry Burke and Andy Ber- man of St. Louis Park. Minn., say that Medicaid has truly been "the saving grace in their fam- ily." Their 23 -year old daughter, Rachel, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and moderate cognitive disability, is the joy of their lives, but things have not always been easy. When Andy was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, he and Terry quickly learned that juggling the de- NEW YORK (JTA)--This week. Israel haters again launched the misinformed and misinforming movement known as Israel Apartheid Week at universities and in communities throughout the world. The good news is mands of health care for An@ and care for Rachel was ex- tremely challenging. Through Medicaid, Rachel is able to have personal care assistants, or PCAs, help her with basic needs, ranging from showers and meals to helpingwith her visits to the doctor. She also has the opportunity to participate in programs that truly contrib- ute to her happiness and "allow her to really have a life." such as recreational social nights, exercise programs and making dinner with her PCAs. As Terry and Andy grow older, as they balance manag- ing the health needs of An@ and Rachel, and their ability to manage Rachel's care declines, they cannot imagine a future without the services provided through Medicaid. Leading Jewish organiza- tions have made it a priority to fight to protect the services and benefits that individuals with disabilities and their families receive under the Medicaid program, we as a community believe that while there is still a need to reform the program to ensureitremains sustainable through a time of austerity, the program provides services to individuals with disabilities and their families that must remain intact. Collectively, the Jewish community sees a number of effective ways that Medicaid can be reformedwhile realizing cost savings. These proposed recommendations range from allowing funding for home- and community-based services (services that cost less than comparable institutionalized care) to be accessed without the current burdensomewaiver process, to promoting preven- tative measures such as chronic disease management. Other recommendations include enrolling beneficiaries in drug and care management programs, which ultimately would improve the delivery of services and generate savings. Any reforms to Medicaid to make it financially sustainable for future generations must be made wth the mind-set that Medicaid remains available as a sourceofhealth and long-term services for individuals with dis- abilities and other low-income populations. Jewish organizations and social service agencies across America stand ready to work with our federal and state governments to ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to live healthy, independent lives. We all have a role to play in ensuring this end, andMedicaid is an essential tool in that effort. Rabbi David Saperstein is director and counsel of the Re- ligious Action Center of Reform Judaism. William Daroff is vice president for public policy and director of the Washington of- fice of The Jewish Federations of North America. Maintaining message of Israel Peace Week that while Israel Apartheid Week claims to be growing, its execution on North Ameri- can campuses is limited to a handful, and even on those campuses the organizers do not reach many undecided students. Meanwhile, another stu- dent-led movement about 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. Doe to space limitations, we reserve. the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mall to ultimately it will spread to many other countries." The article also noted in part, that the homemade 'sticky' bombs discovered in a Bangkok house after an ac- cidental blast--were similar to the devices used against Israeli Embassy targets in India and Georgia, according to an Israeli ambassador said Wednesday [Feb. 15], building on Israel's claims that the incidents are part of a covert terror campaign by Iran. Dear Editor: This morning [Feb. 15], while reviewing the Internet headlines, I was drawn to one of the articles displayed on Yahoo from The Associated Press entitled "Israeli Leader: Iranian Aggression must be halted." Very briefly, the article stated: "Prime Minister Ben- jamin Netanyahu says Iran is destabilizing the world and its aggression must be stopped. If this aggression isn't halted, Israel was to include partici- pants on 75 campuses across North America. and is poised to impact a far larger and more diverse audience. The move- ment is Israel Peace"Week. a student-conceived, grass- roots educational campaign now in its third year. Created as a pre-emptive There is more to the above article but I have only briefly highlighted the beginning paragraphs to make a point. The object of this letter is to highlight the readers' re- sponses to this article. After reading all 21 com- ments. I broke them down into three groups: negative, positive and neutral. Therewas notone supportive comment on behalf of Israel. The mixture of com- ments was, for the most part. a combination of unrealistic, 'head in the sand' denial and/ or ignorance of any intelligent understanding of the real facts going on in the Middle East today regarding the ongoing dilemma with Iran not to mention the(not quite hidden') anti-Semitic sentiment. The incessant attacks upon Israel of bombings, suicidal maniacs, random murders response to Israel Apartheid Week, Israel Peace Week has developed into aproactive and engaging campaign that is ef- fective regardless of whether there is anti-Israel activity on a specific campus. Israel Peace Week revolves around a simple, yet often understated message: Israel by terrorists upon private citizens and homes, etc. from Gaza and real threats from Iran are generally ignored. This truth has not been acknowledged according to the responses regarding the article in question. What I learned from read- ing these comments was a double-dose of realistic understanding of how deeply some people's twisted views and mindset have formed to blame the State of Israel as the aggressor. And to the extent to which some people will go to distort and deny the truth and the facts is incomprehensible. We may need to wake up here in America. the whole Jewish community may have to start thinking about their real homeland: Eretz Yisrael! Sylvia Pagano Winter Springs wants peace and has demon- strated itswillingness to make painful sacrifices for peace. The campaign also outlines options for peace, existential threats to the Jewish state, and the values and accomplish- ments of a thriving Israeli Peace on page 15A Dry Bones !