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April 26, 2013

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PAGE 4A m By Gary Rosenblatt The New York Jewish Week A few months ago Rabbi David Stav, the 53-year-old founder and president ofTzohar, a rabbinic organization that strives to make the face of traditional Judaism more appealing to Israelis, was seen as the Don Quixote candidate in the upcoming national Chief Rabbinate election, held once a decade. After all, he is an idealistic moderate who stresses a compassionate approach to halacha, or Jewish law, in the face of a religious establish- ment that is increasingly powerful and rigid in its views. His conversations are sprinkled with words like "respect" and "dignity" and "solutions." Rabbi Stav, who serves the central Israeli town of Shoham, is in the Religious Zionist camp while the haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) par- ties have controlled religious affairs within the A candidate's chances government for years, having a direct impact on the personal status of Israelis--and indirectly on all Jews--in terms of kashrut, marriage, divorce, conversion and burial. Ever more stringent in upholding halacha, the chief rabbis of late have alienated the great majority of Israelis who resent and sometimes defy their rulings. Rabbi Stav, who believes that the role of chief rabbi is to serve the needs and Jewish identity of all Jews, not just the Orthodox community, was the first to declare his candidacy. However, he was given little chance of winning the post of Ashkenazi chief, rabbi. That was before the national elections in January, though. The outcome produced a coalition government that does not include haredi parties, raising the possibility that Rabbi Stav, a soft-spoken, gray-bearded man who served in the Israeli army, has a,serious chance of winning the election scheduled for June. Shipley speaks ] Jim Shipley I All that has to be taught to you by someone else. But having been taught, as we mature and learn about real life--it becomes less sensible. We know the world is not fiat in a geographical sense. We know that the world is a great deal older than five thousand years. I[neanwhatyear is this on the Jewish calendar? Climate change? Give me a break! Look at downtown Beijing and tell me all that grime headed for the atmosphere has no effect on us below. We know that nobody is gay by choice. Most of us know that killing others who do not believe as we do will not help the future of mankind. But we are a long way from Martin Richard's hope that there will be "No More Hurting People." Islam is a complicated religion. The hate between Shia and Sunni makes the arguments between Orthodox and Conservative or Reform Jews looks silly. Some ultra-Orthodox throw stones, but they do not bomb synagogues. As this is being written, the hunt for the perpetrators of Boston is making progress. Did they really believe that there would be no 'consequences? They set bombs designed to maim rather than kill where the world could and would see it. Whatever and whomever, this you can be sure of. There is a basic flaw within those people. If they were taught that this is just behavior--something inside allowed that to take root. In a world where Midrashim in Pakistan and SaudiArabia are teaching that violence and death isjustifiedbecause someone does notacceptyour belief--something is being planted inside young minds that is like a tumor. It will grow unless it is treated and treated early. Otherwise, by the time they mature, they become like Ahlam Tam- mimi or Jeffrey McVeigh or those who bombed the Marathonwhere the internal rot is incurable. We-all have beliefs and feel we are, right. I remember when it was conventional wisdom that blackswere inferior--for that matterwomen could not achieve what men could in business or science. Both of these prejudices had been proven false long before their rebuttal .finally became conventional wisdom. Boston is not a wake-up call, unfortunately. Too many insides have been rotted out. Best we can do is fight prejudice wherever we find it or we could be sitting in a grandstand one day when the unthinkable happens. Planting the seeds I--and most of the world--was struck by the photo of young Martin Richard, tragically killed by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Martin is holding a poster he created saying simply: "No More Hurting People" and underneath "Peace." Martin will never get to know who set the bomb orwhy. Norwill the youngsters killedwhile sitting at the Sbarro Pizza Parlor in Jerusalem in 2001. One wonders, what, no matter their religious views or governmental concepts, would make someone actually take the action of killing and maiming innocent people who have little or noth- ihg to do with the particular cause or causes that motivate these killers. The nation of Australia is concerned about young Lebanese migrs and migrants who headed to Syria; afraid of them becoming "radicalized." Ahlam Tammimi, the convicted conspirator in the Sbarro bombing, was released from a life sentence as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit. She has no repentance. Her "act" was to "liberate" Palestine and the death of young innocents--she feels--was a just step toward that goal. A baby is not born with this twisted view of humanity and how to make a "point." It has to be taught--but beyond that, is there a basic flaw in the human that absorbs the seed and permits it to grow? To think so little of yourself that you can allow a philosophy of causing death " and crippling injury to permeate your being is beyond most of our capabilities no matter who is telling us different. If you feel that the "system" is working against you, anger is a natural response. And from that the need to "get even" can come next. "Even" with whom or what? What is it that makes a prejudice burn so deep within that a mass killing or a series of them seems justified? Within my lifetime there was a lynching within an hour's drive from our home. The lynchings . that took place throughout the South were at- tended in many cases by crowds of onlookers. Why? What burns so deep within someone that an act like that feels justified? As Jews we think that this is abhorrent be- havior and ire are right. Killing of the innocent is ingrained in our religion, our peoplehood and our tradition. But do we, the Jews, being human of course, have prejudice of some sort within us? Well, yes--but only if it has been taught. You are not born racist or homophobic or a religious fanatic. HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 26; 2013 THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDEN.TJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 41 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene 8tam Mike Etzkin Kirn Fischer HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Central Florida Jewish News, ln., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carrno Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, CO. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Par], FL 32730. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bomstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler . MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman * David Gaudio * Tefi Marks email: news@orlandoheritage.corn Elaine 8chooping Gil Dombrosky * Caroline Pope The resulting change, should Rabbi Stav win, could be dramatic. At stake is the Jewish character of the Zion- ist state, and in the view of some, like Efraim Halevy, a former director of Mossad, the very futm'e of Israel. "It's not just a reJigious fssue or a matter of principle," he told me, "it's a strategic one." He'asserts that if a halachic solution is not found for the hundreds of thou- sands of Israelis who came from Russia in the last two decades, allowing them to convert to Judaism, Israel could find itself with a Jewish minority--without even taking into account the Palestinians. Halevy notes that "close to 80,000 children born in Israel from marriages involving those immigrants are growing up status-less and unable to marry in the land where they were born," and that these numbers "will increase exponentially as the years go by." Under the current chief rabbis--there are two, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardic--the re- quirements for conversion halve been tightened so t.hat only those who commit to observing all 613 mitzvot are eligible, dissuading all but a few potential converts. Supporting The Status Quo Several of the other candidates for the Chief Rabbinate post are respected Judaic scholars but none share Rabbi Stav's commitment to urgent and dramatic change to make conver- sion more accessible, nor do they deal with other issues that alienate the majority of Israelis from their Judaism. For example, Rabbi Stav has pledged to Continue and'broaden the work of Tzohar, founded in.1996 as an antidote to the religious establishment's unyielding practices. Tzohar rabbis support inclusiveness, tolerance and Zionist ideals, and they started by focusing on marriages. Many Israeli couples opt for civil marriages and wed in Cyprus in order to avoid religious ceremonies, which are required by law in Israel. (About one-third of Israeli couples marry in civil ceremonies outside of Israel.) In response to complaints that mandated pre-wedding courses for brides were offensive, thatweddings required strict adherence to the laws of mikvah and religious purity, and that officiating rab- bis were charging fees to perform weddings, though that is against the law, Tzohar created a popular marriage program that emphasized compassionate, personalized rabbinic contact and an openness to honoring requests and concerns. Rabbi Stav also advo- cates allowing couples to marry wherever they want in Israel, not just in their own city, as is Chances on page 15A Letter from Israel 3 nations By Ira Sharkansky A hundred meters from these fingers is a border between civilizations. To the east of that border, is the "village," "suburb," or "neighborhood" of Isaweea. With more than 20,000 residentsd the label "village" is mislead- ing, but that's the term many use. "Suburb" suggests something outside of Jerusalem, buLit is formally within the city as defined by Israel in 1967. There is no wall between us and Isaweea, but it is "outside" insofar as few Jews risk themselves by entering it. "Neighborhood" is problematic, insofar as the frequent mobili- zation ef the gendarmerie units of the police for an operation in Isaweea hardly justify the concept of"neighborly," even though many of Isaweea's residents circulate freely in the stores, bank, post office, bus stops; and playing fields of French Hill, usually with no problems from one side or the other. There is no marked border between French Hill and Isawee. For practical purposes, the border is an open field where the Bedouin" of Isaweea pasture their sheep and goats, or the stretch of road just on the other side of the French Hill gas station (staffed almost exclu- sively by men from Isaweea and occasionally a target of fire bombers wanting a very big bang), where there is often a police presence. Likewise, there is no border to be crossed on my way to the Hebrew University as I pass by blocks populated byArabs and the Arab-owned kiosks selling falafel where there are usually Jews and Arabs standing in line or sitting around and eating. The same is true for the many other points of meeting between the populations, both in the Old City and elsewhere in much of Jeru- salem where Jewish and Arab neighborhoods exist side by side. The populations are even more mingled, with families of orle popula- tion living within areas usually thought of as associated with the other, and a few families with one spouse Arab, the other a Jew, and kids a bit of both. Nevertheless, it is also appropriate to de- scribe a divide between civilizations. Most of the populations differ by language, retigion and culture, although there are many who identify with one population yet share the language and at least part of the culture of the other. The divides between Jews and Arabs of Jeru- salem, and of all Israel bear some resemblance to what Benjamin Disraeli wrote about Britain in an era when Charles Dickens was describing something similar. "Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different man- ners, and are not governed by the same laws." (Sybil, or the Two Nations) - While Disraeli and Dickens described na- tions that differed largely in their economic resources, the differences at issue in Israel are more cultural than economic. Israeli Arabs have a standard of living and access to medical care that allow them to live longer, on average; than white Americans. If Disraeli or Dickens were able to spend time in modern Israel, they would probably write about three nations. The third is the Haredi, also marked by a distinct culture, their own neighborhoods, economy, in some cases a mother tongue (Yiddish) different from that of the other two, and by adherence to laws concerned with food, clothing, relations between the sexes and other matters that keep them apart. Some Haredi live among the non-Haredi, and individuals move in their lifetimes from one culture to the other. The non-Haredi Jewish population (which includes a sizable element of Orthodox Jews) dominates Israeli society, economy, and poli- tics, but spends considerable energy and re- sources coping with Arab and Haredi outliers. Both the Arab and Haredipopulations have allies outside of Israel. Most prominent are the billion or so Muslims who view the Arabs of Israel and Palestine as their wards who must be protected via political pressure and whatever they contribute by way of money and muni- tions. A minor curiosity in comparison with All those Muslims are overseas Haredim and other Jews who send money to the Haredim of Israel, or give money to travelers collecting for yeshivot and themselves, and see the Israeli Haredi as persecuted symbols of what they imagine as the Judaism of their forefathers. The current squabbles with the Haredi concern what may be a sea-change in Israeli politics following the recent election, and ef- forts of the new government to impose some mathematics, language and science into the curriculum of Haredi schools, and to do away with provisions that allow Haredi men to avoid the military, work and taxes imposed on the rest of us. Just as it is necessary to distinguish between the Haredi and the Orthodox Jews, it is also necessary to distinguish between Israeli Arabs (or self-described Palestinians living in Israel) and the Palestinians on the other side of that three-meter high wall that we see from our balcony. The barrier wends its way alongside Isaweea but not between us and Isaweea. Most Israeli Arabs share with us the Hebrew language as well as norms acquired over the course of three generations of living in the same country. We should neither exaggerate the closeness nor overlook the sources of ten- sion, but whatever divide separates us does not compare with that between Israelis and the residents of areas under control of the Nations on page 15A