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March 13, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 13, 2009 PAGE 5A By Elana Kahn-Oren Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle MILWAUKEE I can't think of a time when I didn't know what is arguably the finest Jewish song about courage. But throughout the years, the famous words of Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav have reshaped themselves for me as I have grown. I remember my mother singing it in Hebrew in the kitchen "Kolha'olamkulo, gesher tzar me'od v'ha'ikar 1o l'fached clal .... The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is not to be afraid." It was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. Later, when I learned modern Hebrew, the song's meaning took hold. Nofonly did it bring me home but it offered a lesson I could understand about courage in a dangerous world. When my husband and I hiked the north rim of the Grand Canyon--an intense three-day backpacking chal- lenge in extreme heat we crossed many narrow bridg- es, literally. And, every time, we sang that song. Lately, that song has taken on deeper meaning. On Tuesday, Feb. 27. 14-year old Laura Miller went to school. I e-mailed her that day. As part of a small group of teens in the Teen Journalist Project, she had written an article and volunteered to design part of our supple- ment. I was nervous about the project and followed up with the teens. But Laura never got back to me. On Wednesday morning, she woke up ill and was later rushed to the hospital, where a tumor was discovered on her cerebellum. On Saturday night, she died. The community has ral- lied. Fellow students at Nico- let High School established three support groups on Facebook. More than 1,000 people showed up for her funeral on Monday, Feb. 23, and many, many more visited her family during the shiva period. The death of a seem- ingly healthy child feeds all parents' deepest fear. How can you know when your child's headache is simply a headache and when is it the Make loss matter symptom of a fatal disease? Who hasn't wished for magic words that might protect a child from danger? But I think Laura's shock- ing death points to our deeper fear of unpredict- ability, that life is indeed a very narrow bridge off of which people indeed fall. As children, the lucky among us believe with perfect faith that nothing bad will hap- pen to us. But terrible things do hap- pen. Understanding this and enduring loss is an important step in maturing. The question is not if we will experience loss but when and, more importantly, how will we deal with it. Knowing and facing such loss is what helps make us adults. Indeed, .Rabbi Nachman was also paraphrased as say- ing, "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart." So what does fea have to do with loss? In his 1999 book, "Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Dif- ficult Times," Rabbi David Woipe writes: "The blessing we seek in life is not to live without pain. It is to live so that our pain has meaning. The spiritually mindful person seeks to live fully despite fear, because to allow fear to direct our lives adds the suffering of anticipation to the pain of the loss. "No quality is more essen- tial for a well-lived life than courag e . Loss is arbitrary; our valor in living, and our determination to make sense of life, is wisdom." Notice that Wolpe does not say thatwe should ignore fear butto live fully in spite of it, to know fear and to face it with courage. In his book, Wolpe writes about the many kinds of loss we experience from failed experiments to the loss of childhood dreams, to the people we did not become by choosing one particular path, to failure, divorce and death. Our task is to allow loss to be transformative, to feel deeply and honestly and to grow from it. Asking "Why me?" is irrelevant, he says. "Life is not an intellectual puzzle. Life is a precious, one-time chance to grow. We grow not by solving riddles but by creating meaning." So what is the meaning in the death of a young woman? Is it in the quest for super- " latives kindest, sweetest, most talented? As all the obituaries have made clear, Laurawas a gift- ed writer and a passionate, optimistic young woman. When she came into the first session of our journalist project, in early November, Laura announced that she wanted to be the editor of a fashion magazine. Just like that. As we brainstormed and planned, it became clear that Laura had none of the hubris usually accompanying such dreams. Laura clearly ex- pected hard work and didn't think herself above it. Editors often respond to such dreams by doling out tedious assignments, hoping to grind the dreamer into a realist. But I began believing with Laura. She was a girl of substance who seemed to believe that the world was good and that she might make a difference in it. She participated active- ly in our sessions, unafraid to ask questions or be wrong or take a risk. And she did it all with an "I'm here" smile that I'll never forget. Therein, perhaps, lies the meaning. Getting to know Laura has changed me and enduring her death will also change me slowly, subtly, but deeply and certainly. And it will challenge me not to contract in the fear of "what if?" but to trust, to engage, to embrace and to accept. I am inspired by Wolpe's prayer not for safety but for strength: "My deepest prayer to God used to be to spare me from the pains of life that I so dreaded. Now I see that this is the prayer of a child. As a man I do not pray for a life without pain. "Instead I pray: 'Dear God, I know thattherewill be pain in my life, and sadness, and loss. Please give me the strength to create a life, together with those whom I love, where loss will not be empty, where pain will not be purposeless. Help me find the faith to make loss matter. Amen.'" Elana Kahn-Oren is the editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, wwwjewishchroni-, from which this column is reprinted w:  permission. Bishop's incomplete Holocaust apology By Neil Rubin Baltimore Jewish Times The recent "apology" of Bishop Richard Williamson for his comments mimmiz- ing the Holocaust falls far short of acceptable. In fact, it furthers the case as to why Williamson's association with the Catholic Church is rightly viewed by many as a stain on that body. Williamson, recently kicked out .of Argentina, told the Zenit Catholic News Agency two weeks ago, "The Holy Father and my Supe- rior. Bishop Bernard Fellay, have requested that I recon- sider the remarks I made on Swedish television four months ago, because their consequences have been so heavy. Observing these consequences I can truth- fully say that I regret having made such remarks, and that if I had known beforehand the full harm and hurt to which they would give rise, especially to the Church, but also to survivors and relatives of victims of injustice under the Third Reich, I would not have made them." If that's an "I'm sorry," then Pope Benedict XVI will be leading Yom Kippur services next year at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. In other words, Williamson really feels bad that he upset people. But what he said? He obviously still believes it. Oh. for good measure he's con- suiting with professional Ho- locaust denier David Irving to see if he can learn more about the most documented crime in history. This is all happening be- cause Pope Benedict sparked a furor last month when he reinstated Williamson and three other excommuni- cated bishops, all members of the traditionalist Society of St. Plus X. That came just days after Williamson told Swedish TV that he believed "that the historical evidence is hugely against 6 million Jews having been deliber- ately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler." I guess the Jews were accidentally gassed, right? Facing the real interfaith challenge By Marc Schneier NEW YORK (JTA)--With the deserved uproar now fading over Pope Benedict's lifting the excommunica- tion of a Holocaust-denying bishop, the Vatican and the Jewish community are seem- ingly back in each other's good graces. Indeed, all is well between Jews and the Church simply because it was already in a good place as a result'of our dialogue with the Vatican over the past 50 years. Now we must move beyond our myopic focus on Jewish- Christian relatiogfs and face the real challenge of the 21st century: Jewish-Muslim dialogue. Shifting gears will be any- thing but easy, but a re-exam- nation and reassessment of interreligious dialogue is nec- essary. Ame/ican Jews may not recognize the seriousness of the situation, but they only need to look to Europe and the recent phenomenon of Muslim anti-Semitism to see what's at stake. The war in Gaza has brought about a sharp uptick in the number of attacks against Jews, but violence in France. Sweden, Britain. Denmark and other coun- tries has been going fin for years and already should have served as awake-up call. British Jews are in a state of anxiety. There have been physical assaults on Jews in London, recent arson attacks on synagogues outside the capital, and anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled in towns and cities across the country. In Belgium, Jewish commu- nity leaders have received death threats. The need for Jewish- Muslim dialogue has never been greater. Yet when faced with this new reality of partnership- making and bridge building, why are Jews uncomfortable? Why are we are hesitant. worried, anxious and un- sure of how to go about the next step? It is true that expanding one's thinking and comfort level is always difficult, yet what better impetus than to help our brothers and sisters around the world? A cadre of extremists has been trying to hijack Islam. Thankfully they have failed in that effort because the majority of Muslim leaders and scholars are. in fact. fair-minded individuals who wish no harm against Jews. Indeed. many significant Muslim leaders, in America and globally, have extended the hand of friendship to us, an outreach we cannot afford to spurn. Islamic leaders have an obligation to help prevent the toxic spread of anti- Semitism among the Muslim masses. More leaders must follow in the footsteps of the courageous Dr. Muzam- rail Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council of North America. the highest body of Islamic jurisprudence in North America, who has denounced anti-Semitism unequivocally as against the teachings of Islam. In the same spirit. I believe that more Jewish leaders must speak out against Is- lamophobia, making clear that it is wrong to demonize an entire religion because of the hateful actions of a relative few. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said recently that America has a "'responsibility to speak out and toworkwith the Muslim world on behalf of positive change, and to enlist the help of Muslims around the world against the extremists." As a religious community we have that same responsibil- ity: We must get our rabbis to work with imams, get our college students to talk with their Muslim counterparts, get this dialogue going in a meaningful way. Already there are a num- ber of steps in the right di- rection. The Union of Reform Judaism has a Children of Abraham Web site designed to foster Muslim-Jewish dia- logue; rabbis and imams are preaching to their congrega- tions, urging communica- tion and understanding; and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding "twinned" 50 mosques and 50 synagogues in the United States and Canada last November and this fall plans to expand the effort to Europe. The battle will be uphill, the struggle difficult, the discomfort inevitable. But Muslim leaders have the op- por tunity to echo the historic declaration of the Vatican's Nostra Aetate and to decry "hatred. persecutions, and dislSlays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." We must then rise to the occasion by grasping the outstretched hands of Muslims and work with them to build ties of friendship and trust between our communities. Rabbi Marc Schneier is president of the New York- and Washington-based Foundation for Ethnic Un- derstanding. And they fell into those mass pits the Nazis forced them to dig before gunning them down and then going off to drink beer. "For good measure. Wil- liamson tossed in that no more than a few hundred thousand Jews died in Eu- rope during World War II. Catholic Church officials, including Baltimore Arch- bishop Emeritus William H. Keeler, have said that the Pope would not have moved to welcome Williamson back into the fold had he known of the remarks. The Pope, and other leading Catholic officials, have since that time forcefully criticized those who would deny the enduring pain of the Shoah. But the Pope has wel- comed Williamson and his anti-modernization crew which includes 500 priests and tens of thousands of followers--back on board as a first major step toward reconciliation. Mind you, this was done unilaterally, without the Plus X people needing to do anything other than continuing to hate the reforms of the famed 1965 Vatican II Council. Now it's time for the Pope to directly and force- fully and personally address Bishop Williamson and the like-minded. To not do so, remains a lasting insult to the Jewish people and their many Catholic friends who have spent recent decades seeking to bridge the chasm created by the faiths' painful historical relationship. Neil Rubin is editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times,, from which this column is re- printed with permission. Dry Bones OF C: 'T- . "n.V- Al,e. oF cot,,OllC / Pt A"6R OUST/ SHO'r" US / PA,00O00 Z OOg / \\; ALL lOJ "I"RUbC, I G "I"HROUG "THR