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May 25, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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May 25, 2012

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PAGE 4A Good 00JlI00ord By David Bornstein The complete season Some people mark their years by holidays, New Year's Day or Chanukah or Christmas. Some mark their time by their children, a calendar of school and summer, inches grown, tests passed and failed, days of trials and suc- cesses. Others remember tleir days based on vacation or work, anniversaries and birthdays and deaths, and some don't mark the passing of time at all. I look back and remember my year based both on what I've experienced and what I've written, and judge my personal success and satisfaction by recalling the words I've put on the page, and whether they achieved the purpose I had in mind for them, fell short or exceeded my hopes and expectations. Many of those words are captured here, on the pages of this small Jewish newspaper, and it's time now for me to look back and see how I've done in another season of attempted good words. I've beenwriting this column for more than 10 years now, and in that time I've covered a lot of ground. This year was no exception. wrote about lessons construction workers learned about charity, about Jewish sororities, and about controversy between a professor and students at a local college. I wrote about Face- book updates and new be'ginnings, second (arid not-so second) wives, the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel and the trap of little league baseball in Maitland. I wrote about old age and old friends, about God and faith, and as I look back t feel pretty good about the body of this year's work. It's a set of essays with some heft, with just enough weight and insight and introspection and heart, and maybe enough to have a lifespan a bit beyond that of newsprint. But as always, it was your responses to my columns that let me know I was doing something right. My column about reconnecting with my old friend Gene from college caused another old friend of mine to write, "As usual, you made me think, youmade me introspect, and this Shipley speaks Jim Shipley A failure to communicate I'm an ad guy. And a sales guy. I have been taught and practiced the art of getting a story across to willing listeners, skeptical listeners and downright hostile non-listeners. The idea is to present your point of view in a way that will reinforce the willing"prospect's" desire to take the action you are requesting; changing the mind of the skeptical one and perhaps even swaying the hostile "prospect" a bit. You would think after all these years, the State of Israel--with t.hat incredible product called the Jewish State; would have developed a strong story and a compelling narrative to get the story of this only democracy in the Middle East across to a broad audience of all three types of prospects. Who would have figured that a nation of Jews would be great at farming and fighting and terrible at public relations? As Ambassa- dor Michael Oren points out in his Wall Street Journal OP Ed, back in 1973, Life Magazine devoted a cover and 92 pages to the miracle of the State. Admittedly, that presentation may have been a bit over the top--but there was not a single misstatement in it. In 1968 a show from Israel titled "To Live Another Summer" featuring the Grand Bal- let of Israel toured the US. Israel was still in the flush of staving off annihilation and celebrating its victory. But, the backlash had already started. The insipient anti-Semitism around the world began to snipe. Who were these Jews that instead of going to their .deaths quietly so that we could mourn them, dared to survive? So, a song right at the beginning of the show was called "We're Sorry We Won It". It expressed the thought that"A Jew Who is a Winner is To Be Scorned". Since 1973, the Arab nations, pretty well deciding that they could not destroy Israel by force, have turned to more subtle tactics. They are using the one weapon that they have multiple times more than Israel: money. The Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, Syria, The Emirates and others have "bought" chairs at numerous universities to "teach" an anti- Israel message to students. Unwitting young minds that have come out of our high schools with little or no knowledge of modern wbrld history are susceptible to a message of the weak against the strong, the hapless against the establishment. But, these insidious pur- veyors of hate have turned history on its head. The Jew as victim is an image we do not and .will not accept. But, to teach that Israel is an "Apartheid" state and the military might of the Middle East, or that they are occupiers is red meat for the gullible young. It must be counter acted. Israel gave up Gaza. No quid pro quo--just left. Now thousands of missiles have rained down over the years since. A thriving green- house and vegetable industry, left for the Arabs to take over and create an economy was stripped of its equipment and cannibalized. Yet, the propaganda machine churns on. I participated in a forum at Rollins College in Winter Park where a young, bright female Jewish student who had attended a summer program sponsored by "Seeds of Peace" stood and proclaimed that the audience should protest their tax dollars going to "kill Pales- .tinian babies." Where are our voices? Who proclaims the dozens of Nobel prize winners from Israel? Do your kids know of the thousands of Arab mothers who give birth in Israeli hospitals every year? Can they even imagine what it is Shipley on page 19A THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE Ni,T NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 4O Press AWards 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: Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kim Fischer Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Barbarado Carmo Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman * David Gaudio * Teri Marks Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky Caroline Pope I HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 25, 201? time, you made me cry." While my goal is never to make people cry, it's nice to know the story moved someone. It also received what I consider praise of the highest sort from a gay member of our Jewish community; who ap- preciated how I dealt with the sensitive subject of gay and straight friendship. Gene liked the piece as well, and said it affirmed, for him, why we were back in touch. My column about my dog Clare got a re- sponse from, amazingly enough, a psychic in Michigan. She wrote, "Your dog Clare is still with you, just in another dimension. As far as not being there for her death, you are forgiven. Clare knew and knows that you loved and love her as much as she did and does you. Peace be with you." While Clare is with me in the most Jewish of ways--in loving memory--her ashes were spread years ago back in Ann Arbor, in Lhe Huron River, and if anything, she is with all of us today. And though I'm not a true believer, this psychic's promise of forgiveness made me feel somehow lighter. David Brent couldn't resist telling me that he grew up with the same patterned couch that was in the picture of me and Clare. How many weird Aztec print couches are there in existence? Can reality be any stranger? And finally, not since I wrote a series about our local Jewish agencies have I received as man, strong responses to a column as I did with "My Mother Who'Lives Alone." They ran the gamut from"I'm going through the exact same thing with my parents," to "Has your mother disowned you yet?" and "I would never have had the nerve to write something like that." Even my sister had a-profoundly deep, disturbed reaction to the article, which she thought disrespected our mom. I went back and read and re-read the piece, and came away confident I'd been fair and evenhanded, and this was affirmed by my mother herself, who both enjoyed and appreciated the column. To all those who had such strong, visceral reactions, I learned, some years ago, that when one has a reaction that is out of proportion to the comment or event you're responding to, it's not about the comment or event. It's about you. So I challenge you to take a step back and ask yourself, what was it about this piece of writing thataffectedyou'so deeply? Is it your own fear of growing 51d, or your parents' impending deaths, or something else hidden, buried deep inside yourselves that yQu're hav- ing trouble seeing and dealing with? That's your free therapy for the week. And thus another season of The Good Word comes to a close. I hope it's been as cathartic, as therapeutic, as helpful and hopeful and reflective and revealing for you as it's been for me. It's been a good year, a tough year and a unique year, but it's also been a year of growth and change, and if I can do that 10 years into this personal, political, very public column, I am confident so can you. Peace be with you and yours, until we meet again in the fall. And that's the good word. The opinions in this column are those of the writer and not the Heritage or any other individual; agency or organization. Send your thoughts, com- ments and critiques to the Heritage or email Pluralism means finding your place in the Jewish story By Edgar M. Bronfman no valid question that is rude, only questions NEW YORK (JTA)--For the past six years The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, which is named in honor of my father and that I now run with my son Adam, has held a conference called "Why Be Jewish?" It is an intimate gathering that seeks to explore an expansive question. This year, in conjunction with the Shalom Hartman Institute, we will focus on the idea of Jewish pluralism. Jewish pluralism, to me, is about finding your place in the story of our people. All Jews share a narrative going back to the patriarchs and matriarchs who created us, and they are wonderful and complex stories to share, study and learn. Jewish texts root you in the world and allow you to understand yourself, your values and your culture, all the while speak- ing to our modern lives with ancient wisdom. Every Jew, regardless of belief and prac- tice, should be able to see themselves in the narrative, values and rituals--in all their permutations-- that bind us together as the Jewish people. We have an obligation as Jews to educate ourselves about our shared texts, common history and the traditions we have inherited. At the heart of my Jewish beliefs is the tradition of questioning. Questioning is how we begin to learn. We Jews constantly discuss complex issues about how to live a moral and meaningful life, and seek guidance from sources rang!ng from our sacred texts to our most assimilated activists. We debate openly and are not shy, nor should we be. All Jews, regardless of how they choose to practice--or not practice--their Judaism should be encouraged to engage in this dia- logue. Questions are where education begins, and with education comes a sense of pride and ownership. The challenge for those of us who care about seeing Judaism thrive now and in the future is not to tell people what they should think, but rather to encourage them to learn enough that they can arrive at their own conclusions. Taking a curious rather than pedantic ap- proach to the question of why we are Jewish has led me to studying Jewish texts, history and culture. That knowledge has become, as I enter my 83rd year, a wellspring of joy and inspiration. It is not because studying taught me how to be a Jew, but rather because it rewarded my curiosity and helped me become a better human being. On of the greatest lessons I've learned through studying Judaism is the necessity of mutual respect, and this idea lies at the heart of pluralism. To debate well we must be civil. To answer questions we must listen. I am a firm subscriber to the riotion that there is rudely asked. The "Why Be Jewish?" conference this year also marks the 25th year of a program I founded called the Bronfman Youth Fellow- ships in Israel. BYFI takes a small group of young, promising future Jewish leaders from across the spectrum of beliefs and traditions and immerses them in intensive study both here and in Israel. It is of great importance to me that the teenagers in the BYFI program represent people from across the Spectrumof Jewish.experience so that they learn not only by engaging in Jewish study, but also through dialogue with each other. My hope is that the future of pluralism can be seen through the transformative conversations that occur between participants. This type of Jewish dialogue shouldn't just be limited to teenagers in intensive study programs, but is something we can all share with each other through learning with our families, friends, communities and, even upon occasion, those we might see as our enemies. Jews are, after all, a family of sorts. Evenwhen we disagree, we are mutually bound to care for each other. That interconnectedness means respecting otherstreams of Judaism and discoveringwhat we can learn from each other. Pluralism is an open Judaism where all denominations can be inspired and gain wisdom by listening to each other. Regardless of individual practice, we all share a rich heritage in which meaning can be found for every Jew, from the traditionally pious to the most skeptical of conventional religious practice. Pluralism also means egalitarianism. Women's contribttions as Jewish leaders and rabbis have only enhanced our community as a whole, as has the open inclusion of homo- sexuals. Their active participation in Jewish life should be encouraged across the entire spectrum of Jewish practice and ideologies. The more widely we open out tent, as our forefather Abraham di(i, the more Judaism is enriched. All should be welcome and able to express themselves within our community. Like Abraham, who was known to keep his tent open to accommodate all who wshed to be included, pluralism means all thatwho wish to come into our Jewish community must be welcome. Judaism is strong and rich enough to take on a plurality of practice. There is room for all in our story. My hope for all Jewish people is that they write a new story for themselves that will be told for generations to come. Edgar M. Bronfman is the president of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation and is work- ing on a book about Jewish peoplehood with journ, Ruth Andrew Ellenson. He is the former CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd.