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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 23, 2014 Our rituals are illogical, but we perform them faithfully, anyway By Gary Rosenblatt On Shabbat mornings, when I go outside to pick up the newspaper from the front stoop of my house, I am aware of a deep sense of responsibility. I know that where and how I open the paper to check the scores during the baseball season determines whether my beloved Baltimore Orioles won or lost the previous night's game. I know, I know. Some might think it illogi- cal-after all, the game has been over for hours and the players are home, asleep, no longer on the field. But over the years I've learned that if I check the scores before I bring the paper into the house, they lose/lost. If I can hold off until I'm inside, they win/won. OK, so it's not 100 percent foolproof; there are exceptions to every rule. But my job in all this is to do my little part to increase the O's chances. And trust me, I'm not alone in my behavior, which some may call pure mishegas (craziness). Managers and ballplayers are known to have awide range of superstitions. Some are evident to the fans, like players who avoid stepping on the foul lines when trotting on or off the field--or those who, davka, have to step on the lines. And virtually every batter goes through a series of formulaic motions between each pitch, from crossing themselves to cupping their crotch, while pitchers fiddle with the ball--and everyone on the field and in the dugout perfects the art of spitting--adding to the time, and charm, of the game. Then there are the players who won't change their underwear during a winning streak, no doubt giving the locker room an additional whiff of victory. Some of the smartest, most thoughtful people I know are deeply irrational when it comes to sports, believing that their actions have a direct impact on their team's on-field fortunes. Truth be told, back in 1979, when I lived in Baltimore and sat in the press box with my law professor friend Kenny at the old Memo- rial Stadium for the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, we were convinced that when and how we took bites from our brisket sandwiches during those home games were key to the O's fate. Sadly, we must have chewed when we should have swallowed because the Orioles blew a 3-1 Series lead, losing the last three games to the Pirates, including two at home. Willie Stargell may have won the MVP, but 35 years later I still feel guilty about my role in The Big Fade. It should be noted, though, that I am follow- ing centuries of Jewish tradition in believing that a ritual act I perform, or avoid, leads to good luck, or bad. And it's a thin line between minhag (custom) and plain old bubbe meises (old wives' tales) in any number of Jewish traditions, many of them involvingwarding off the Evil Eye, especially in regards to children. For example, some parents still tie a red ribbon (or bendl, in Yiddish) around a child's finger to ward off the Evil Eye. We add a He- brew name like Alte (Yiddish for old) to a sick child to "fool, the Devil from recognizing and claiming him or her. Pregnant women are told to avoid visiting the cemetery. We don't say "mazal tov,' on hearing that a woman is pregnant, and we don't make public a baby's name before the birth. Bad luck. Spending a good deal of time in my Europe- an-bred grandparents' home as a youngster, I also was told that whistling is taboo (it invokes Satan), stepping over a child on the floor is a no-no (she won't grow unless you step back over her), opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck, and on hearing bad news one should spit three times to ward off the ever-lurking Evil Eye, with the suggested additional option of uttering "poo, poo, poo." Sounds reasonable, right? Many people are familiar with the phrase "ken ayin hora" (may there be no Evil Eye), sometimes shortened to"kenna hora," invoked when saying words of praise, for example, "oh, that baby is adorable." Misplaced optimism over/ran By Ben Cohen When Hassan Rouhani was elected as Iran's president in June 2013, you could hear the sighs of relief in Washington, in Brus- sels, at U.N. Headquarters, and across key European capitals. Finally, we were told, the terrorism-supporting, human rights-abusing, Holocaust-denying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had left the political stage. Finally, a moderate, rational leader with whom we could conduct business was in power. Finally, there was a real chance of securing an enduring deal to thwart Iran's dangerous nuclear ambitions. Almost a year later, we're still hearing that refrain, thanks to the optimism that the new round of talks on Iran's nuclear capabilities, inaugurated by the Joint Plan of Action agreed by the Tehran regime and world powers last November, continues to generate. Iran's own foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has spoken warmly of the "unexpectedly fast pace of progress in the negotiations so far," even of- fering the reassurance that his government is keen to avoid the perception that it is seeking to weaponize the nuclear program. From May 5-9, talks resumed in New York on outstanding issues, to be followed by a move to Vienna on May 13 to begin the work of drafting a comprehensive agreement. The clock is ticking toward July 20--the target date for that agreement, and the expectation among Iran's interlocutors is that the deadline will be met successfully. A senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal in early April, "I'm absolutely convinced that we can meet the deadline," while the Russian Foreign Min- istry has claimed that an agreement is within reach before July 20. Among the indicators contributing to this feel-good atmosphere is Iran's decision to suspend the production of uranium enriched to 20 percent, as well as its receipt of $4.2 billion of sanctions relief, which enabled Rouhani to assert that his domestic critics objected to the November interim deal only because they were personally profiting from sanctions-busting activities. Yet the distance between where we cur- rently are, and what some are billing as this century's first major diplomatic breakthrough, remains substantial--and littered with ob- stacles. To begin with, there is Iran's history of duplicity and concealment, practices which only the most naive would think have been eliminated. As Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told me back in January, "There is no assurance that there isn't another enrichment plant under construction some- where else." Heinonen, who spent more than a decade negotiating with the Iranians, also warned that Rouhani is not the final authority when it comes to Iran's internai divide over Cohen on page 14A THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE x x x ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards Editor/Publisher 00ITAGE] Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor J E W I S H N ]5 W S Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Sociefy Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Loft Apple Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley , Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Gil Dombrosky Joyce Gore Why tempt fate? One of the more charming customs we have is shaliach mitzvah gelt, giving money to someone going on a major trip, asking him to use it for charity on arrival. This is based on the belief that no one will come to harm on a charitable mission. In the end, some people believe in faith healers, others insist in the power of a rebbe; I'm semi-convinced my actions can transmit some kind of positive energy to a group of favored ballplayers. All of which is to say that whether you call them superstitions, customs, traditions or bubbe meises, they offer a certain comfort for those who observe them. And if you don't believe me, I won't even bother telling you how uncrossing my legs at a critical moment while listening to the Oriole game the other night resulted in light-hitting catcher Steve Clevenger's game-winning double in the bot- tom of the 10th. Mock me if you will, but it worked, didn't it? And remember this: IfI keep at it through- out the season, the O's could wind up in the World Series. Poo poo poo. Gary Rosenblatt has been the editor and pub- lisher of The Jewish Week for 20 years and has written more than L000 "Between TheLines" columns since 1993. Now a collection of 80 of those columns, ranging from Mideast analysis to childhood remembrances as "the Jewish rabbi's son" in Annapolis, Md., is available. Letter from Israel John Kerry, J Street and the Jewish establishment By Ira Sharkansky John Kerry regrets his use of the word apartheid in connection with Israel, but his half-hearted apology, which included a reitera- tion of his accusation against Israel's leader- ship as well as that of the Palestinians for not having the courage to do what he thought was right, put him squarely with the Jewish and international left that thinks Israel has no choice but to cave in to Palestinians or to absorb them. Apartheid will come, in Kerry's view like that of Jimmy Carter, when Israel has to protect itself from the Palestinianswho have become citizens or residents of its state, but kept in Bantustans like those of South Africa. Among Kerry's accomplishments is to en- liven the use of the A word in the Palestinian narrative. It's not hard to guess that it will join BDS in the slogans of Palestine's friends, Jewish and otherwise. No Israeli government that I can imagine will comply with the Kerry-Carter-Jewish left- ist fantasy of annexing the entire West Bank. Naftali Bennett or only his crazier party col- leagues might have wet dreams of that nature, butwe can hope for enough sanity from Israel's non-religious right and center. Palestinians in the West Bank must get used to living without a state in the conventional sense. They've done it forever, there never having been a State of Palestine except in the dreamworld of the U.N. In their anomalous status, Palestinians do not suffer politically, economically, or so- cially more than the average Muslims across the Middle East. They do better than most, with increasing access to jobs in Israel, work in Israeli enterprises that others want to boycott because they are in the "territories," and with access to Israeli hospitals if needed. They travel internationally with Palestinian travel documents, oftenviaJordanwhere many of them hold citizenship. Neither the U.N. nor the Jewish left will force Israel to incorporate all of the West Bank. Dangers from the Jewish left are balanced along with dangers from the Jewish right. The aspiration to extend settlement beyond the few major blocs our side of the wall and annex large swaths of the West Bank are as problematic as the leftist specter of a one state solution. Competing with the flap about Kerry and apartheid is the rejection of J Street's application for membership by the Confer- ence of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. While Kerry's mumbles tell us something about the Jewish left and its access to the Obama administration, the Conference re- jection of J Street sets us thinking about the Jewish right. Those of us in the middle must protect ourselves from both. The rejection stands apart from Jews' cultural affinity for dispute without violence, but it is not unique in that respect. There is in Jewish culture an acceptance of shunning the undesirable, as well as welcoming dispute. It's not always easy to know how far one can go without triggering intolerance. History has had some bad examples. Spi- noza and Jesus Christ rank high among those whose rejection has rebounded to harm the community. Spinoza became one of the landmarks in the intellectual contributions of the Jews, and is read more than anything attributed to the Amsterdam community that declared him out of bounds. Assessing Jesus is more problematic. Hewas not clearly more creative than the prophets whose ideas from centuries past he promoted. He also challenged one of the essential features of Judaism by what Christians see as his heroic overturning of the money changers' tables. Without those money changers, Jews from outside of Jerusalem could not implement the sacrifices that were at the center of the Temple ritual. That Jesus did it on the eve of Passover was a foolhardy act in the context of what was most likely thousands of pilgrims crowding the site. Yet that radical became the central figure in the world's most dominant religion, and the story told by his followers produced UntOld numbers of horrors, and led eventually to the greatest horror of them all. Shunning remains in the ultra-Orthodox communities, as any reading of the posters in their neighborhoods will show. Some only curse and demand the avoidance of outsiders or those deemed to be morally corrupt, but some attack with the most vicious of Hebrew rabbis whose decisions or writings have offend other rabbis. Lyndon Johnson was not a Jew, but his epigram for political inclusiveness is relevant. It's better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in. Alan Dershowitz has an interesting assess- ment of J Street that puts it in the context of historic American Jewish opposition to Israel, which had been quiet or submerged during the period from 1948 or 1967 to the Lebanon War of 1982 or the more more recent spread of leftist enthusiasm for Palestine. Common to older anti-Israel sentiments prominent among American Jews and J Street is a greater affinity for American loyalties than an identi-fication with the Jews of Israel. His- torically it was assimilationists of the Reform movement that sought a firm home as another of the religious communities in America, and opposed the Zionists who wanted to create a state for the Jews. The ancestors of American Reform Jews hadn't quite made it by being good Germans, but the Americans of the Reform movement in the 1940s would do their best. J Street is doing something similar in the chorus on the left side of the Democratic Party. Reform Judaism's representatives were among those supporting J Street's member- ship in the Conference of Presidents. That may say more about the tension (political as well as theological) between Orthodox and liberal Judaisms than about Reform leadership's rever- sion to an American-first opposition to Israel. Whether J Street and even more extreme Jews who support BDS are pissing inside the tent or pissing upon it from'the outside, they are part of us, and add to our energy if not to a good night's sleep. Their postures warrant confrontation by those of us who disagree. Shunning is tempting, and anchored deeply in Jewish roots, but it will not bring quiet to our noisy, transparent, and international politics. Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.