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May 7, 2004     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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May 7, 2004

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PAGE 32 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS sco tab By Uriel Heilman NEW YORK (JTA)--In a country wracked by religious- secular tension, it's not often that the country's political and intellectual establishment awards Israel's highest prize to a fervently Orthodox rabbi who has made a career of sav- ing Jewish souls. Then again, Yitzchak Dovid Grossman is not your average rabbi. A sixth-generation Jerusalemite born to a presti- gious Chasidic family, Grossman left his roots and his fervently Orthodox sur- roundings in 1968 for the nightclubs and discos of one of Israel's most drug-infested, crime- ridden cities, Migdal Ha'emek in the Lower Gali- lee. The thing was, Grossman never shaved his beard or sidecurls. Instead, the people he met were changed by Grossman, who today presides over one of Israel's largest educational institutions for poor and at- risk youth, a wildly successful prisoner rehabilitation pro- gram and, as the city's chief rabbi, Migdal Ha'emek. Now the recipient of the Is- rael Prize for lifetime achieve- ment, which is awarded every year at a ceremony in Jerusa- lem on Israel's Independence Day, Grossman says he hopes to bridge the secular-religious divide in Israel. "I want to use the Israel Prize to engage people, to con- nectwith them and showwe're one," Grossman, 57, told JTA. Israeli Prime Minister "Ariel Sharon has his disengagement plan from the Palestinians; this is my engagement plan for the Jewish people," he adds. Grossman's maverick tac- tics have earned him a unique reputation. Early on, Gmssman says, he decided that the best way to reach Jews was through love. When he went to discos in Migdal Ha'emek, rather than chastising the youths there he engaged them in discussion and debate. Sometimes, be- fore the evening was over, many of the young men had foregone their female dance partners for a simcha-dancing circle with Grossman, like those at Orthodox weddings and bar mitzvahs. The next step was to get the youths to abandon their lives of drugs and crime, which by the late 1960s had turned Migdal Ha'emek into a notori- ously dangerous place. Grossman says he sought to influence the youths by em- bracing them. "When a person sees a rabbi helping him with something practical, then maybe he will look to you for spiritual guid- ance, too," he says. What's important is "not only that he sees you want him to be reli- gious, but that you want to help him generally." Grossman would invite crimi- nals to his home for Shabbat meals, visit Israelis in prison and find youths in city slums where they conducted illicit business. His home became so popularwith underworld char- acters that his wife insisted the family install a closed-cir- cuit TVmonitoring system and a button to summon police in case of emergency. In 1969, an appreciative city named Grossman chief rabbi of Migdal Ha'emek, and then- Prime Minister Golda Meir at- tended his installation cer- emony. At 23, he was the youngest chief rabbi in Israel. Not long afterward, Grossman started an educa- tional institution to help the youths he encountered. Called Migdal Ohr--Hebrew for Tower of Light--the Migdal Ha'emek school began with just 18 students. Today, Migdal Ohr has 6,000 students from disadvantaged, immigrant and at-risk homes, 700 staff members and an an- nual budget of $20 million-- though it's suffering from a $4 million deficit due to recent government cutbacks. Gradu- ates have gone on to become engineers, generals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, rabbis and Knesset members. photo by EB Solomont/JTA Israel Prize recipient, Rabbi YITZCHAK DOVID GROSSMAN, in New York on April 21. "I realized Ineeded to es- tablish an institution where the kids could get the love they need," Grossman says. Migdal Ohr continues to be a popular destination for youths from all over Israel. The school's dormitories house more than 2,000 stu- dents, many of them immi- grants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. In the early days, the dorms were filled with the children of Sephardi immigrants from places like Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, who were then among Israel's poorest com- munities. "One of my missions is to take religious/secular, Sephardi/Ashkenazi out of the lexicon," Grossman says. "We have to seek what is shared between us--and a lot is." Grossman telis the story of a young Israeli who, after a trip abroad, decided to convert to Christianity and went to live in a monastery near Safed, in northern Israel. Shortly before Yom Kippur, the man's dis- traught grandfather ap- proached Gmssman for help, asking him to bring his grand- son home for the holiday. Grossman headed north, exchanged his black cloak for jeans, tucked his sidecurls under a cap and rode a tractor up the mountain to the mon- astery. He said he knew he had to go incognito if he hoped to get inside. The young man insisted he was a devout Christian and had no interest in leaving the monastery, but Grossman said he told him, "I'm not here to discuss theology with you. I'm here because your grandfather wants to see you." The young man finally agreed to join Grossman for Yom Kippur, though he warned the rabbi that he wouldn't fast. Come time for Kol Nidrei, however, there was no sign of the young man. After the holi- day, Grossman learned that he had gone straight to his grandfather. The two made up, and not long afterward the man returned to roots saving him. ries Grossman people he has "I am the earnestly. "There is thing as a secular Jew! Every Jew has a will--the reachhim offeredthe Israel tics and in any case needed in "They'll find unteer to be the chief t he says. "But I they can find another r run Migdal Grossman says he more fervently raelis followed his reaching lis, but many pose themselves to the tations of the outside "Had I removed my i and cut off my beard, they'd have an ment," Grossman says. "But I haven't thing." "The haredi needs to get the secular more tifulabout.reli public aware itcanonl, realit me proves it." By Joe Berkofsky NEW YORK (JTA)--In 1999, at the height of the lnternet boom, the Anti-Defa- mation League warned that scores of neo-Nazis and white supremacists were going online. In a ~'eport titled, "Poison- ing the Web: Hatred Online," the ADL quoted Don Black, an ex-convict and former KKK organizer, who is creditedwith building the first Internet hate site. By 1997, the site had grown into what the report called a "supermarket" of rac- ist invective on the Web by linking to many other like- minded efforts. Among those Black linked to was a Missourian named Frank Weltner, a.k.a. Won Goldstein Mohammed," who set up a small site called "Jew Watch" that alleged a host of Jewish conspiracies. Last month "Jew Watch" made the big time, suddenly placing at the top of searches for the word "Jew" on the search engine giant Google. That sparked a media blitz, as well as an online furor among those who wanted to quash the site. The digital -storm seemed fueled not only by Jew Watch's improbable ranking, but by the possibility of an initial public stock offer- ing for Google, which many hope will revive the Internet economy. As of the middle oflastweek, Jew Watch no longer turned up in response to the "Jew" query, but it did turn up in searches for its title, alongwith a Google disclaimer about"of- fensive search results." Google said that it wouldn't remove the Jew-hating site from its listings, but it did promise to reconsider how the search engine categorizes and labels search results. "We do our best to extrapo- late what the Web determines is the best result for a par- ticular query, and the Web represents the widest range Yom ha-Atzmaut of opinions imaginable," Google spokesman David Krane said. Call it the rise and fall of Jew Watch. The strange journey began with a report in j the Jewish news weekly of Northern Cali- fornia, followed by stories in the New York Times, New York Post, Jerusalem Post, Reuters and such top computer news sites as Cnet. A New York real estate in- vestor, Steven Weinstock, launched a "Remove Jew" petition hoping to convince Google to remove the offending site. Though Weinstock told JTA he opposes censorship, he said he appealed to Google's sense of corporate responsibility in urging the company to sup- press Jew Watch. He urged some 40 friends to e-mail GoOgle through his protest site. By last week, he'd received lsraelis celebrate at the start of Israel's Independence Day holiday, marking Israel's year, in the center of Jerusalem, Monday, April 26. Web www.go0gte.c01rJexpl,I~aUon WolnedlskCoNIDo~lh411enm~s ||v~dLPhlesereiKlot~notlhene. Resulls 1. 110 Of abouI t, lql,ll focJow ~l~namnl. | Jaw. Wlkioedli the flee ehcvclQl~dia JeW. From VMI4pe~a. Ihe IrN incyclopedm. T~S page is prod, ted Imm Jews ?. V~,O ~S i Jme? Jewish Imv. )-Ia)lddla. Jewish IIW. debne s en.v.~lape cha o~d~ew - S4k. Apt 2~, 2004 - ~. ~sLVan~fll I {Io nol lllm to be e m/~bl or Im Staid on Judlhlm; n~ }uof Ii kldtenld, ObslfVll Jill who Ills !{ll d In I Iol g ilsell~h. I wo~ is i IIw ~ ~v,4sw~q.o,g/- 131( - ~or 25. 2004 - ~ ~E~.~ - Si ~. II ~.~ Findoul~ Jews and A alll IS li'l~ ptrlOl~ v/aOII mollr Wll i Jill or lily Pllrlol) V 'AO his goil BISI~. - I ~ ~-~'~-~ I LCJ[-NA C on[llin I - Torordo ( heck hick 4/26) C.JF MtlltSlrM s 8tM~rnenl-- Thl PIIslofl Oflhl Chrill To~l' Ilrllll~ ~ OL~ IDOul W*W t~org~- t 0k- &Or 23. :'004 - ~.~- ~.J~ A P Oit'l~ Of JlllJe: From Oidlle an Jw~ in ~ Flee Of Ood Is based on ~10 work Of MilieUs 8ol9, a echola~ I~ ~/lel4 Of hildorl ii Jesus Irl~dlls. Ood is rlal v, ww unil~d eeJ ~or~'J~ - 12k - ~l~r 25. 2 t~t'l$ - ~,~. ~rj~ JESUS THE J~ * Oeza Ven'nss' bool( Jesus I~e Jew was p~ovocil~i~e in its iige alone - adlhough what cOUld be more undlNabhl ihan Jesus' J~hn~$$? A Google search of the word 'Jew' on April 27. "I do believe in the First The Jewschooi-led often- anti-Israel I Amendment, but corporations save pointed to the online en- Internet. Meanwhile, 118,316 replies, he said, and should have some responsi- some 12,000 e-mails, bilities," he said. Google replied that it wouldn't intervene or tinker with its search results. "Petitions don't impact Google's ranking technology," Krane told JTA. Google determines its re- suits by a kind of digital de- mocracy. When a user begins a search by entering key words or phrases, computer algo- rithms search the Web for ap- pearances of those words and return each page according to popularity, or what Google calls relevancy. That was until Daniel Sieradski, editor of"Jewschool," a Web log of "Jewish news from the fringe," arrived. photoBrian Hend|erDTA Sieradski launched a "Google Bomb," a campaign in which many sites link to a single site with the aim of moving it up Google's rankings. cyclopedia "Wikipedia." Within weeks, Wikipedia's definition of the word "Jew" became the first result for that search term. In the meantime, Jew Watch's Web hosting service apparently shut the site down for nearly a week. By the time a well-known neo-Nazi site allowed Jew Watch to use its Web service, the absence had pushed its rankings down on Google, several people said. Sieradski is satisfied with the outcome--"the Jewish people have a right to defend ourselves before our detrac- tors define us for us," he said-- but he doesn't plan to make the fight against Jew Watch his "life's mission." "There are tons and tons of sites out there and we can't police them all," he told JTA. Sieradski said he'd leave that job to those like "Internee Haganah," a site that fights neo-Nazi sites have I "counter-Google against Jewschool, noted. Others have including Sen. Schumer, ( on Google to and the ADL, Google to red-flag and similar sites. As a result, founder, Sergey Stanford graduate sian Jew, sent pledging t classifies Web sites. Google will site saw illegal, such as raphy sites, Krane tice of categorizing page. Under that Watch was