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March 14, 2003
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 14, 2003 By Joseph Aaron Chicago Jewish News CHICAGO--There has not ever, there has never been a better time to be a Jew. And yet, never, ever, have Jews been better at turning lemonade into lemons. but we are actively working to damage that world. It may be a cliche, but we truly are our own worst en- emies. The last week brought one nauseating Jewish news story after another. The city of Jerusalem, our For most of our history, we capital, our holy city, has, for have had to make the best of the first time, a fervently Or- bad times. Now, for the first time, we have the opportunity to make the most of good times And we're blowing it. Big time. " Things that never used to happen are happening, so much of what Judaism has al- Ways been about is being eaten away. We should be fee ling so good about so much, recognize that we are more able than ever before to be most fully Jewish, naost creatively Jewish In just the last week or so, there was a news story about the fact that Tay-Sachs dis- ease has been virtually elimi- nated in the United States. Eliminated. Another news ~ory told of a new Gailup pol! at shows that Americans Perceptions of Israel have grown more favorable. Grown. Another news story told how the mayor of Rome afused to meet with Iraq's riq Aziz after Aziz refused answer a question put to im at a press conference by a Israeli reporter. The mayor Rome. , When the TV show Nightline" wanted to demon- strate to Americans the right Way to live in the face of terror "!Meats, it went to Israel and Interviewed lsraelis, showing them and the Jewish state in an incredibly courageous, wise !ight, Newsweek did the same m a column on the current s!ttuttion. Time magazine said Sia nUt the world's best airline, ngapore Airlines, that "they .are the Israelis of aviation. they're small and smart and a ressive." Things are so very, Very good for us. ~.And yet, not only do we not tz.e advantage of all that to uild a better Jewish world, thodox mayor. He has been asked to meet with the leader of the Reform movement's seminary, which has a huge campus in Jerusalem. He is very unlikely to do so. Why? Listen to the words of Dudi Zilberschlag, an advisor to Prime Minister Sharon, on whether the Council of Torah Sages will allow Mayor Uri Lupoliansky to meet with Reform's Rabbi David Ellenson. "The sages prefer to deal with Hamas or the evangelists than Reform." Listen to those words. An advisor to the prime minister of Israel says the lead- ing Orthodox sages of Israel would "prefer to deal with Hamas or the evangelists than Reform." That is how one Jew talks about other Jews. He'd rather meet with the killers of Jews than with those who are Jews. Then there is the Orthodox Shas party, which is angry it is not being included in the new Sharon government. How did it express that an- ger? Its spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, called Ariel Sharon "the prime minister of garbage cans." This from one of the world's greatest Torah scholars about the prime minister of Israel. That is the example being set to young Orthodox Jews about how Jews are to act to- wards other Jews with whom they disagree. But wait, there's more, lots more. The United Jewish Com- munities, the umbrella group of American Jewry, has named Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman to serve as vice president of its Jewish Renaissance and Re- newal pillar. What that means, in English, is that he will be the man responsible for devel- By Aaron Cohen JUF News eA CHICAGO---On Tuesday (II r 14/March 18) we'll cel- ate t Purim, that fascinat- r~g Jewish holiday when we reCall our reversal of fortune ancient Persia, when those ~vho sought to destroy the e vs Were hoist on their own Petard. Purim is fun. Kids dress in costume. People exchange gifts of food (mishloach Two recent episodes-one tragic and one banal-come to mind as emblematic of mod- ern-day Haman-think. When the sp~ce shuttle Co- lumbia came apart during re- entry, killing Israel's first as- tronaut along with his six American colleagues, there were those in the world who chose to see the tragedy as a kind of divine retribution. "With the fall of the Co- lumbia, a thought arose in my heart Anyone who sought rnanot) and give tzedakah, to elevate the Jews on whom ~/e get rowdy at the read- Allahhascasthumiliationand ~g of'the Megillah (Scroll of misery will be struck by hu- Sther), drink awee too much miliation and by divine wrath" ~ahnapps, and laugh in the wrote Sheikh Dr. Ali AI- Ceof adversity. Tamimi, an American citizen, ~;~ughing after a close call on the website S':" catastrophe is an ac- www.aifajr.com {translation qUlred skill, one that the Jew- by MEMRI.org}. ~h people have nad ample How repulsive. ~P~rtunitytopractice.Given Space was not the only ~eWorld these days, thatskill venue where anti-Semitism Continue to stand us in reared its head. A recent case ~oofl Stead With war and ter- of Haman "in your face" on a h~r~m hanging over ourcollege campus gave cause to i ~b'~us, it's too soon to think rattle groggers in advance of ~ut scenarios for celebra- the Purim holiday. The Daily ~n. It is time, though, to lllini, the independent stu- ~lrrn our principles and to dent newspaper at the Uni- "J ront our adversaries, versity of Illinois at Urbana- oping programming to strengthen and enrich Jewish life in this country. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, you may remem- ber, was forced to resign as president of the Hebrew Union College, the Reform seminary, for sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct. Now he's being put in charge of programming to strengthen and enrich Jewish life. If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny. Think of the message that sends. Especially to young Jews. Especially to young Jew- ish men. And young Jewish women Sexual misconduct one day, top of the Jewish heap the next. And more. As chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Or- ganizations, Mortimer Zuckerman is considered the spokesman for American Jewry, the man who represents us all. Recently, Zuckerman dedicated an archaeological research center in his daughter's honor in Jerusa- lem. The Abigail Zuckerman Educational Center, located next to the Western Wall tun- nel, includeli material on the history of the site and of Jerusa- lem. "This is one way that I felt I wanted to celebrate her birth," Zuckerman said of his daughter, who is nowS. Beautiful, right? Touching, yes? Try disgusting For you see, by no defini- tion is Abigail Zuckerman Jew- ish. I'm sure she's a nice and cute little girl. But the fact is that her mother, Zuckerman's ex-wife, is not Jewish. Which means, according to Ortho- dox and Conservative, Abigail is not Jewish. And because Abigail is not being raised Jew- ish, Reform, too, would not consider her Jewish. It was bad enough that Zuckerman got the job he has, even though he had intermar- ried, exactly the wrong signal for the top Jew to send. But now, his clout and money have bought naming rights toa cen- ter teaching the history of Jerusalem, located next to our own PAGE 5 Judaism's most sacred site. The name being that of a non- Jew, the product of an inter- marriage. One bad thing leads to an- other. And so it is with this story about one of Israel's most pres- tigious military units. The Golani Infantry Brigade is one of the most famous in Israel, known for its bravery, admired for its skill. And yet, last week brought news that Israel had dis- banded a 70-man rifle com- pany in the Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion The reason is that it had become increas- ingly insubordinate in recent years. Soldiers in the unit vandalized and disabled mili- tary vehicle~ so they would not have to carry out routine patrols and they ignored or- ders from their commanding officers. It tells you something, something quite scary, when Israel's very best and bright- est, the very top of its cher- ished military, is acting so poorly that one of its most prestigious units has to be dis- banded That never, everwould have happened 20 years ago. And yet, amazingly, it comes just a week after other Israeli soldiers were found guilty of providing vital military infor- mation to Hezbollah in ex- change for drugs Giving Jew- ish military secrets to one of the country's worst enemies That, too, never would have happened 20 years ago. And yet now, it happens. Which tells you that those of us who have been so concerned about the sad state of Israeli politics, the country's rampant corruption, its increasing 'me, first, all that matters is power' attitude, weren't just debat- ing the finer points of eti- quette. Those things have ef- fects. And when those effects touch even the army, even the best of the best in the army, you know that actions have consequences, that bad Jew- ish behavior leads to more and worse Jewish behavior. Little things matter. Little things send signals about val- enemtes Champaign, published a Her rationale brought to crazed, ranting, anti-Semitic mind what Israeli author letter in the Jan. 22 issue un- Amos Oz said in a conversa- dertheoutrageoustitle,"Jews tion, published in the Israeli Manipulate America," which daily Ha'aretz, regarding two the editor herself bestowed, worldwide waves of extrem- Students, parents, alumni, ism-the one exemplified by Hillei staff, faculty, and Jewish Sheikh Tamimi, and the other community leaders raised the advanced by Leventis. roof; responses ranged from "One form of extremism writing letters to the editor, to engenders another," Oz said. canceling advertising in the "Eitherthereisonlyonetruth publication, to calling for sus- and whoever does not share it pension of its distribution on must be killed, or everything campus, to reaching out to is true and everyone is equal, the Chancellor. so murderers, too, have the Adding insult to injury, right to murder " The story Angle Leventis, editorinchief, of Purim certainly teaches us defended the decision to pub- aboutthedangeroftheformer lish based on a pernicious ar- kind of extremism. It's some- gument. She wrote: "We are thing from which we Jews committed to giving all people have suffered more than our avoiceinourpublication-even share, and against which, those views we find vile, dis- thanks to the State of.Israel tasteful or simply ridiculous, and its strong relationship Itisdifficulttoreadwhatmany with the U. S we're able to feel is racist, hateful or imma- fight. ture speech But there is also How we deal with the sec- gravedangerinsilencingthese ond kind of extremism is a views based on the opinion of whole new megillah, which the editor or editorial staff, we now must learn to write. What is hate speech to one Aaron B. Cohen is Execu- member of a society is free tive Editor of JUF News, Chi- speech toanother."Talk about cago. Comments? moral relativism runamok, jufnews@juf org ues. Little things lead to big- Think of the hundreds ger things, and hundreds of millions of Which is why, of all thisdollars spent to build more week'snauseatingJewishsto- and more and more Holo- ries, I found the following one caust monuments and mu- the most sad and the mostseums. telling about where we are, And yet, no one, no one and that where we are is not a could come upwith the dough good place to be. to keep and fix up a true Jew- A century-old Czech syna-ish monument, a beautiful, gogue is to be converted intoa simple shul. second-hand furniture store I know, I know. It needed a after being sold by the local lotofrepairwork, there aren't Jewishcommunity.TheCzech any Jews left in Roudnice nad FederationofJewish Commu-Labem,we can't save everyold nities made the decision to shulin theworld, there's only sell the shul in Roudnice nad so much money, and on and Labem for $33,000 after fail- on. I know all the excuses, all ing to find anyone to rent it. the reasons. The community's real estate But 1 think it says some- arm, Matana, said selling the thing when the Jewish world ~shul was "the best option," allows, hell, doesn't even no- given the enormous recon-tice, when a communitysetls struction costs required,a century-old shul so it can I wanted to cry when I read become a second-hand furni- this.A 100-year-old shul, part ture store. of our history, our being, hay- Doing that is a Jewish trag- ing to be sold. For $33,000. To edy. The fact that none of us become a second-hand furni- gives a damn is an even bigger ture store. Jewish tragedy. Think of the all things Jew- And God only knows what ishcommunitiesinthiscoun-our acting like this toward try, around the world, in Is- that, willleadtousdoingabout rael, spend money on. something else. Rabbinical Thoughts Who is a good Jew? By Rabbi R. J. Adler Recently we heard many discussions about who is or is not a Jew. It involved Russian immigrants to Israel and new- comers from exotic countries who knew Biblical Judaism but not the later Talmudic type and rabbis had to make a new determination regarding their status as Jews today. I am not dealing with that in my ar- ticle. I am more interested in writing about who is a good Jew. To answer this question we do not have to go far - it is found in a popular book of Jewish Literature"Pirkei Avot" or Saying of our Fathers. The list given there is clear and quite extensive; let me quote in part; "He is a friend, loves God and his fellowman, is modest, pious, upright, keeps far from sin, gives good counsel, is pa- tient, forgives insults, and tries to grow constantly in stature as a person. Moreover, he or she will do business in mod- eration; will be moderate in worldly pursuits, in pleasure, with sleep, ordinary conversa- tion, and in play. He will have a kind heart, accept suffering, will know his or her place, will be charitable, not seek hon- ors, and not boasting. Instead, he will share burdens, influ- ence others to virtue, study in order to instruct others and in order to practice Judaism." The rabbis in Pirkei Avot conclude these lists by add- ing, if you live like that, you will be happy and all will be well with you. You will be happy in this world, and all will be well with you in the world to come,Ashecha Vetov Lach A modern rabbi, tryinl~ to summarize Judaism for his age put it this way, "A Jew by his very condition of his Jewishness, pays the continu- ing price of Sinai. If Jewishness remains his fate, Judaism re- mains the framework of his native spirtual existence and God his partner. And there- fore, as long as the people as a continuing organism in his- tory keep alive the conscious- ness of Sinai, each Jew can find his roots," (W. Gunther Piaut). Similarly, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan tries to answer the same question in his own char- acteristic style when he writes, "Jewish identity demands of the individual Jew that he so come to know the Jewish people, its entire history, its civilization and its destiny as to experience the reality of its God. This God is that aspect of the Jewish people which ren- ders it more than the sum of its individual, past, present, and future parts, and gives meaning to all its virtues, sins, successes, and failures." (If not now, when?) At the recent memorial ser- vice for the seven astronauts, Shuttle Commander Rick Husband was quoted as hav- ing recited from the Book of Joshua, thoughts which were on his mind at the time of the launch of Columbia. These sentences could also be part of what it means to be a good Jew. He recited these verses; "Only be very strong and reso- lute to be careful to do just as my servant Moses commanded you, swerving from neither to the right nor to the left, so that you may succeed in ev- erything that you undertake. This book of the law must never be off your lips, but you must muse over it day and night, that you may be careful to comply with all that is writ- ten in it; for then you shall make your life prosperous, and you shall succeed Have I not commanded yo/a to be strong and brave? Do not be fright- ened or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you in what- ever you undertake," (Josh. 1, 7-9).