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May 11, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 11, 20'12 By Alan Kadish NEWYORK (JTA)--Educa- tion is the key to success--a "silver bullet, for changing lives in all segments of so- ciety. An affordable, quality college education must be available to all, not just the wealthy. Horace Mann, the re- nowned innovator in public education, said that, "Edu- cation ... beyond all other devices of human origin is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery." This is why, as educa- tors, we must do all we can Keep down the rates of student loans to convince lawmakers in Washington that they muit not allow the interest rate on millions of so-called Staf- ford loans to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. That will happen automatically on July I if Congress fails to act. It would affect 7 million stu- dents nationwide--400,000 in New York alone--and raise costs by an average of $1,000 each, the White House says. Doubling loan rates would cost New York students and their families an estimated $419.7 million. Student loan debt is among the vital issues facing young Americans today. It has reached more than $1 tril- lion--higher than the debt on credit cards and car loans. The average balance nation- ally is about $23,000. President Obama is urging Congress to keep the interest rats low; his presumptive Republican challenger, Mftt Romney, agrees. The political fight in Congress seems to be over how to pay for it. This crushing debt comes on top of tuition increases. Tuition and related expenses increased 400 percent in the 30 years between 1980 and 2010, while median family income rose just 150 percent in the same period. As a c01lege president, I know firsthand how impor- tant it is that something be worked out. We must educate our young people in order to have a productive workforce. Hampering higher education will ultimately lead to the decline of America as a world power. We cannot survive as a nation in the global market- place without student loans at a reasonable rate. A recent CBS/New Yo'rk Times poll found that two- thirds of Americans feel there is too much disparity between the haves and have-nots in our country. In considering ways to narrow the income gap, one constant factor is the strong relationship between educa- tion and lifetime income. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that median weekly earnings for college graduates for the third quarter of 2011 was $1,152 per week, compared to $636 for high school graduates and $459 for those without a high school diploma. So one of the most important goals of higher education ought to be to pro- vide our young p.eople with a high-quality education based on merit rather than means. Increasing the interest rate on student loans will only serve to make it more difficult for low- and middle- income students to receive a high-quality education that will ensure upward mobility. PAGE 5A It .is the responsibility of those in leadership posi-- tions to help provide access to a good education for all sectors of our nation. We must help nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers, innovators and business leaders who one "day will make their mark in the global marketplace and fortify our country's status as a world power. Making college affordable is one way to do this. Hold- ing down the interest rate on student loans is another. Dr. Alan Kadish is the president and CEO of Touro College and University Sys- tem. Put Russian-speaking Jews on the community',s radar By Misha Galperin NEW YORK (JTA)--With the contemporary music world buzzing about Regina Spektor's upcoming album more than a month before its release, I cannot help but think about the young musi- cian's rise in the context of Russian-speaking Jewry. Spektor, who came to the United States with her parents when she was a young girl, still identifies deeply with the Russian-speaking Jewish community and has been an outspoken defender of Israel. And she is not an exception. Even though--perhaps because--many Russian- speaking Jews were deprived for years of a Jewish education or the ability to affiliate with other Jews, the strong emo- tional connection that many Russian-speaking Jews have with their Jewishness and to Israel and the Jewish world at large is tribal. This stands in contrast to the majority of North American Jews who define their Jewishness as a religious identity. While the Russian-speak- ing Jewish community, par- ticularly the second gen- eration, has gained much success in commerce, the arts, technology and medi- cine, I am concerned about its third generation. Without even a faint memory.of life behind the Iron Curtain, my children's children will need more than an ethnic sense of connectedness if they are to choose being Jewish. And unless the organized Jewish community can figure out how to tap into the potential of what is undeniably avast in- fusion of energy, passion and creativity, we are looking at an epic failure in recognizing and addressing a game-changing opportunity. Twenty percent of the Jew- ish world is Russian speaking, but it occupies only a small percentage of our thinking as an organized Jewish com- munity. While th.e members of an emerging generation Of Russian-speaking Jews worldwide are connected to one another and feel a strong kinship with Israel, their strong identity is.decidedly not reflected in affiliationwith organized Jewish life. Perhaps a million Jews remain in the former Soviet Union, but most are highly assimilated and it is estimated that our outreach efforts are only reaching 8 percent to 15 percent of them. The major- ity of the 1 million Russian- speaking Jews who are now making a tremendous impact in Israel remain disconnected from the Jewish communal milieu. More than 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews now live dispersed across 180 communities in Germany, Where a generation without great knowledge or practice of Judaism has no Jewish community to seek. And in North America, where Google, PayPal and if not for Russian-speaking Jews, syn.agogues and fed- erations--the core institu- tions of Jewish communal life--barely register on the Russian-speaking Jew's radar. 'To be fair, some of the more visionary leaders do get it. In partnership with UJA-Federation of New York, the Wexner Heritage Founda- tion, which identifies young, talented and committed Jew- ish leaders from across the professional spectrum and trains them in contempo- rary Jewish leadership, has launched a cohort exclusively for Russian-speaking Jews. It is a great model. But unless it is scaled and replicated by federations across North America, the impact will be negligible. We need a cadre of Russian-speaking Jewish lay leaders in every major city. The second issue is directly related to the first. Once these talented and motivated people are ready to lead, they will need to be continually en- gaged. There is a severe lack of first- and second-generation Russian-speaking profes- sionals in the Jewish com- munal arena who, through shared history and personal experiences, canharness the energy of potential leaders and keep them involved. In North America, there are less than a few dozen trained Russian- speaking Jewish Communal professionals to work with a population of 500,000. Build- ing a platform to sustain the lay and professional leaders should be a top priority. The third challenge is more deeply rooted in the psyches of many Russian-speaking Jews: the notion of"collective" response. Not surprisingly, the idea of centralized giving and plahning does not sit very well with a population that associates collectivism with identity suppression, corruption and inefficiency. To many i t is what they were all too happy to leave behind. We need to explore models by which Russian-speaking Jews do not feel threatened but rather empowered to innovate, and where there is flexibility for them to direct their philanthropy in accor- dance with their own ideas as Jews. ' At The Jewish Agency for Israel, we've found that the high-profile visibility of Israel's struggle can be a pow- erful window of opportunity for mobilizing their support. A recent Brandeis University study of Birthright Israel ap- plicants and alumni, focusing on those with at least one Russian-born parent, showed their emotional attachment to Israel and global Jewry to be much higher than that of their American peers, de- spite a weaker knowledge of Judaism. Given the positive backdrop with which to work, but cognizant of the dangers looming if these Jews are not brought into the broader communal framework, this is By David Suissa It's common knowledge that the Bible is the "greatest book ever written." No other book can match its power or wide appeal; no other book has been as studied, analyzed or debated. It's the literary gift that keeps on giving, the book of books, the book for all eternity. And yet, despite this ex- traordinary pedigree, in much of academia--particularly. in the "non-biblical" fields of rational philosophy and political theory--the Bible is the Rodney Dangerfield of books: It gets little respect.. In part, this attitude can be traced to the influential German philosophers of the early 19th century, who generally dismissed the Bible as "superstition" and "revela- tion" in favor of the rigorous and classical Greek school of thought, which worships VoiceOver IPwould not exist engagement of networked indeed the time to act. Shepherding the Bible "reason" above all. While other philosophers, such as the English, did pay homage to the Bible in their philo- sophical works, the German school focused on rational thought and, to this day, this approach has dominated the hails of academia. This is a missed opportuni- ty that needs to be corrected, says Yoram Hazony, a scholar from Jerusalem who spoke recently at a Jewish Journal salon about his upcoming book, "The Philosophy of He- brew Scripture" (Cambridge University Press). Hazony, the founder of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, believes the Bible has earned its rightful place at what he calls "the table of big ideas." If you dig deep enough, he says, you'll see that the Bibleis more than a book of revelation or even a book of ethics--it is, in fact, a brilliant book of reason. He gave an example of how the Bible can enhance clas- sical Greek philosophy. One of the big ideas of the Greek school, from the likes of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates, is that man is nothing without the "state." In this view, the state is the rational instrument that defined human identity and dignitythe instrument that spelled out the rules of civilized life. SoCrates him- self once said that he "would rather be dead" than find himself outside this cocoon of structure and reason. But Hazony showed us that if you delve into biblical stories, like that of Cain and Abet, you find a more nu- anced and independent view of civilized man and human identity. When God banishes the sinful Adam--the symbol of humanity--to toil in the fields, it is a curse for all future generations. Adam's first son, Cain, accepts this banishment without question and follows in his father's footsteps, doing the hard work of the land. But the second son, Abel, decides he won't accept Gd's curse and chooses the much more idyllic life of the shep- herd. That doesn't stop him from showing his gratitude to God by bringing a sacrifice, just as his brother Cain does. Now, you would think God would be more pleased by the sacrifice of Cain, as he is the one who respected God's banishment. But God is more pleased by Abel's sacrifice. How could that be? Hazony's insight is that Abel is humanity's "first dis- sident," the precursor to epic moments in Jewish history in which other shepherds will challenge authority--most notably Moses, who takes on not only Pharaoh but even, Shepherding on page 19A . But this is not just the work of The Jewish Agency. There is too much to do; the entire Jew- ish community must make up for lost time. Today, with the assimilation rates in the Jewish community in general reaching alarming levels, and given the high percentage of Russian-speaking Jews in the overall Jewish population, we must recognize that a strong Jewish future requires that they be a significant part of it. Misha Galperin is the presi- dent and CEO ofinternational development at the Jewish Agency for Israel. Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if youso request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to Finding love for Israel in Montana Dear Editor, then Myim, Mayim, Mayim. My son and I returned from How strange we thought. All a road trip to South Dakota, the way out here near Glacier Wyoming, and Montana on National Parkwewerehearing Monday. the Jewish songs of Israel. While eating dinner at the Weaskedourwaitresswhat Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, was happening and she said Montana, whichwas built by thatthechefhadrecentlybeen the Great Northern Rail Road to Israel for the fii'st time and to house itsworkerswho clear he fell in love with Israel and the tracks of snow during bought a whole bunch of CDs the winter, my son Joseph to bring back and listen to. said while listening to Frank How strange and yet how Sinatra croon over the speak- wonderful thatsomeone from ersinthediningroomthathe Montana could fall in love heard Hatikvahwaftingoutof with Israel. the kitchen. I told him that" Itmakesmethinkthatallis that was impossible, not lost in this world for Israel. Then I could hear it, ShariYudenfreund-Sujka YerushalayimShel Zahav, and Winter Park Dry Bones