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April 26, 2013

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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 26, 2013 When you're a Jew in a glass box, who brings the Windex? By Edmon J. Rodman j, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California Get out your squeegees and glass cleaner. In Berlin, Jews are being put on display in a transparent box, and you might want a clear view. Called "Jews in a Show- case," the exhibit, which runs through August, invites a Jew to sit and answer questions. It's part of an exhibition called "The Whole Truth ... every- thing you always wanted to know about Jews" that opened at the Jewish Museum Berlin last month. "At selected times, a Jew- ish guest will take a seat in a showcase and will--if desired--react to visitors' questions and comments," says the museum's website. The museum is confident By Alex Traiman questions about Judaism and being Jewish will be asked, "the FAQs, the difficult ques- tions, the funny questions, the clever questions, and the questions that really have no answer." Perhaps, in this setting, it's too much to expect answers to the imponderables. Butwould an answer to, "How much chocolate syrup does it take to make a decent egg cream?" be out of the question? Museum visitors searching for the "whole truth," says the site, now have the opportunity to "confront their confused feelings about Jews." Of course, by this point you are probably experienc- ing "confused feelings" about whoever thought this up-- but leaving that aside for a moment--can you imagine what it might be like sitting in that box? According to Fox News, several of the volunteers for the exhibit, including both German Jews and Israelis living in Berlin, said, "The experience in the box is little different from what they go through as Jews living in the country that produced the Nazis." "With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece," volunteer Leeor Englander said. "Once you've been 'outed' as a Jew, you always have to be the ex- pert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on." Sound familiar? At times, many of us have already found ourselves un- comfortably put on the hot seat as the office, school or even neighborhood "Jew," and I am wondering if ritualizing the exchange by adding a confined space is really that far from our experience. People do sometimes try to box us in. "Do Jews celebrate Thanks- giving?" I was once asked in a publisher's office. "Why don't Jews believe in Christ?" I recall being asked by a friend in high school. "Is that hut you're building in your backyard for a luau?" I recall being asked by a neighbor who had seen me put palm fronds on the roof of my sukkah. Understandably, within days of the opening, the show people are calling "Jew in the Box" had a lot of people asking questions--none of them funny. "Shame! How would you like an exhibit in the U.S. called 'German in a box' or 'Christian in a box'?" asked Jeri Roth Fink on Facebook. In its defense, the museum makes the point that "The Jews in Germany, who have played a prominent role over the past few decades and are seen by many as a symbol of the millions murdered in the Holocaust, are already treated as specimens under glass." Since I too sometimes feel like a Jewish specimen, I wondered if the next time I knew one of those "Jewish questions" was coming, if imagining sitting in a glass box could finally help me to escape it. "Is there a reason why Jews are the people of the book?" I might be asked, seated in the Jewish glass box. "Yes, we write and win awards for so many of them," I might answer, cleaning the window with a shpritz of Windex, the better to eye my questioner. "Do Jews drink?!' I might be asked as a follow-up. "Why, did you bring me something?" I would respond, typically, with another ques- tion. "Are all Jews rich?" "Rich in seeing the pos- sibilities of most every situa- tion," I would answer. "Why are Jews so bent on repairing the world?" "We are well-equipped for the job," I would answer, pull- ing out a hammer. Edmon J. Rodman is a columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. For more Rodman, visit his "Guide for the Jewplexed" blog at http://www.virtualje- Israeli economy, stable during global crisis, could be disturbed by budget deficit Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 Stanley Fischer, the Gov- ernor of the Bank of Israel, leaves after a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 17, 2013. Fischer, who will leave his position in a few months, has stewarded the Israeli economy through an era of stability amid a global crisis. While the Israeli economy has managed to steadily weather the global finan- cial crisis of recent years, a growing budget deficit now threatens to disturb the rela- tive economic stability of the past several years. Freshman KnessetMember and newly minted Finance Minister Yair Lapid must now attempt to raise government revenues by increasing taxes and slashing expenditures in order to close sizeable gaps in the 2013 budget. The uncomfortable mea- sures, and remaining budget shortfalls, leave many wor- rying about the state of the economy, just months before economic oracle Stanley Fischer leaves his post as Iongtime governor of the Bank of Israel. "The state of the economy is good certainly as compared to other advanced economies," Edward Offenbacher, Director of Monetary/Finance Divi- Offenbacher has worked at the bank for more than 30 years, following a stint at the U.S. Federal Reserve. "We're not growing as fast as we were in the period of 2004 to 2010," he said. "But we're doing as well as could be expected based on the circumstances in the world. By and large, our situation is better than in almost all comparable countries." According to Offenbacher, there are two major compo- nents to the Israeli govern- ment's budget deficit. The first is that the amounts of tax revenues the government collected in 2012 were sig- nificantly lower than initially forecasted. The second component is that the 2013 budget has significant increases in ex- penditures, including com- mitments to increase wages for teachers and doctors. Additional expenditures were made based on the recommen- dations of the Trachtenberg committee which attempted to ease economic burdens Yesh Atid Party New Israeli Finance Min- ister Yair Lapid, who faces a budget deficit as a primary challenge for the current Israeli economy. on young working couples, following the social protests of the summer of 2011. "The government made a lot of commitments for ex- penditures which were under- taken without considering the overall budget implications. Plus, in the defense ministry therewere some overruns. So the expenditures were higher than planned," Offenbacher said. In order to balance the budget, Lapid has started warning the public to prepare for a number of cuts that will need to be adopted. Several pundits have referred to the cuts as "austerity measures." Yet according to Often- bacher, the word austerity may be inappropriate as the situation in Israel is not nearly as alarming as the financial crises currently plaguing many countries in Europe. "The magnitude of the measures needed to bring the budget back into proportion are far less than we've heard about in European countries, like Ireland or Greece," Of- fenbacher said. Lapid is scheduled to meet with Fischer in the coming days to discuss his plan to balance the budget. It is be- ing reported that in addition to sweeping cuts and planned tax increases, Lapid will seek Fischer's support to loosen the sion of the Bank of Israel's Research Department, told budget constraints placed on the government, by easing a "fiscal rule" that directly links government expenditures and debt to projected economic growth. In other words, Lapid may attempt to pass a budget with a deficit that is larger than the government has previously agreed upon--a step that may make it even more difficult to close the gap in the years ahead. Carrying a larger debt burden could hurt Israel's overall economic standing. Offenbacher explained that this fiscal rule--adopted to curtail government debt relative to the economy--has gained Israel "tremendous credibility and admiration within the investment com- munity." Violating its own budgetary policy by acting against the fiscal rule could send signals of irresponsibility to foreign investors and affect Israel's standing with major ratings agencies. "Israel's central bank has a formal role as an advisor to the government on economic issues including the budget," THE ,.PACT OF [women] I M M EAS 0 RABLE THE IMPACT OF [Hadassa00] ENDLESS This Mothe(s Day, honor all the women in your life and make an everlasting impact. Give a Life Membership for $212. Enroll at or call 800.664.5646 This offer is valid January 1-December 31, 2013. A portion of the Life Membership enrollment fee is allocated for a subscription to Hadassah Magazine. In keeping with IRS regulations, membership dues/enrollment fees are not considered to be tax-deductible contributions. 2013 Hadassah, Tne Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Hadassah is a registered trademark of Hadassah, he Women's Zionist Organization of America. Inc. said Offenbacher. "But ulti- mately, the authority over the budget rests with the Finance Ministry." In addition to the budget gap, the Israeli economy is being challenged by growing income inequality--an issue that has been receiving a great deal of public attention. Sala- ries for members of Israel's upper class are grossly out of proportion with those of poor, and even with the salaries of middle class families. "There is no consensus on how income inequality affects a nation's overall growth, or inflation," Offen- bacher said. "But there is a growing sense that in terms of economic efficiency and economic performance that income inequality doesn't help. There is also a feeling, in my own opinion, that there is an issue of justice with the great disparity in incomes. "The question is whether the middle class is paying too much of the burden," he said. One of the reported mea- sures Lapid is now con- Economy on page 15A