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June 14, 2013

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 14, 2013 The writing life In a recent article in The New Yorker, John McPhee (one of my favorite authors) writes about the pain and difficulty of, not just writing, but writingwell. He recounts all theworkarealwriter knows: the multiple rewrites, the problems with writer's block, word selection, subject selection, the consent feeling that your writing is worthy of a second grade reader. And yet this is John McPhee, who teaches at Princeton and has written dozens of books about matters as diverse as tennis and-nuclear power, dirigibles and oranges, plate tectonics and birch bark canoes. Ifthere's anyonewho canbe calleda successfulcontemporarywriter, it'sJohnMcPhee. So why the doubt? Why the insecurity, the hesitation to call oneself a master wordsmith, an influential journalist, a brilliant writer? When everyone and their mother thinks they can write, why can't a writer who works at one of the world's most prestigious universities and is regularly published in one of the world's finest literary magazines simply say, "I'm a great writer and after manyyearswriting comes easily to me." The answer is in the process. While everyone who learns to read can putwords down on paper, few do itwell, because few put in the effort required to think about every word, every sentence, every thought on the page. I remember the worstwriter's blockI ever had. It came gift-wrapped in anticipation and excite- ment when I opened the box that contained my first personal computer--an Apple Macintosh, of course. It was an amazing experience, i no longer had to re-type a manuscript because I changed one word in the middle. I no longer had to worry about Wite-Out, I no longer settled for less because I ran out of time typingl even though I knew I could make it better if I just inserted one line in the second paragraph. I could cut, copy, paste with ease. And that's all I did, for six months. I'd cut one line and place it here, change the tense of the story because I could, dwell on one sentence for days, revising, revising, revising, and going nowhere. It wasn't until I overcame my overwrought overediting that I could move forward again. But perhaps the best thing that ever happened to my writing occurred about a dozen years ago, when I was president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. i'd already had short stories published, won writing awards at the University of Michigan and from the State of Florida, and freelanced for a variety of newspapers and maga- zines. I'd worked as a copywriter for ad agencies and a writer/producer for Disney, but the single best job rve ever had has been working on this column for the Heritage. I wanted a vehicle to improve communication within the community, so once a month I sub- mitted an article to the Heritage, and it worked. The people I needed to reach read what I wrote, and itwas good. Community relations improved. A few years later the timing was propitious, and I asked for the opportunity to replace Dan Coultoff, who had replaced Gene Starn, to write regular editorials. Jeff Gaeser gave me a chance, and the rest, as the clich~ goes, is history, albeit of a minor sort. Now I won't blow smoke your way and claim that this is a highly prized position. Ws not, nor would the people at the Heritage say it is. It's fun to have this little sphere of influence all to myself. By Rafael Medoff Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice had publicly urged airstrikes on Su- dan. Samantha Power wrote a book urging The nomination of Samantha Power for U.S. intervention against perpetrators of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has genocide. Joe Biden, as a U.S. senator, called drawn the Jewish community's attention to for imposing a no-fly zone over Sudan. As her controversial 2002 remark about hypi)- a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama thetical U.S. action against Israel to protect himself vowed, "I won't turn a blind eye Palestinians from genocide. But Power's to slaughter" of civilians abroad and said, confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate "There must be real pressure placed on the is also likely to address a broader question: Sudanese government." How can lawmakers judge her record on re- Developments on the ground in Sudan spondingtogenocide,whenthegovernment during Obama's first term provided good agency she has headed for the past year has reason for U.S. action. In 2009, Bashir's mass no office, no staff, no phone number, and no expulsion of foreign aid agencies led towide- public record of taking any action to fulfill spread starvation among genocide survivors. its stated mission--to prevent atrocities in In late 2010, the ICC reported hundreds of Darfur and elsewhere around the world? civilians murdered and thousands displaced Just weeks after President Barack Obama in renewedattacks by government-sponsored was inaugurated in 2009, the International Arab militias against villages in Darfur. CriminalCourtindictedSudanesePresident By the summer of 2012, New York Times Omar Hassan al-Bashir for spearheading columnist Nicholas Kristof was reporting the Darfur genocide. He was charged with from Sudan about new"mass atrocities that sponsoring the Arab militias that were echo Darfur"against non-Arab tribesin the "murdering, exterminating, raping, tortur- Nuba Mountains. ing, and forcibly transferrkag large numbers Yet the Obama administration's response of civilians, and pillaging.their property" was lethargic--and worse. The new U.S. in Darfur. envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, told the The Obama team included many out- Washington Post in 2009 that American spoken advocates of U.S. action against the Bashir regime. Before becoming U.S. Problem on page 15A g. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT. NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. ~ ~ CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE ~ ~ ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 41 Press Awards FLORIDA J,EWISH NEW: 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 ernaih Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Mike Etzkin Kirn Fischer Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Padlette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carrno Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira 8harkansky Tim Boxer David Bomstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman David Gaudio Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky Caroline Pope It's fun towrite aboutwhatever I want, from global nor any reasonto continue other than my love of politics to the most personal of subject matters, writing. But I do plan to be back in the fall, and More than that, however, iswhat it's done for me meanwhile put you all on notice. A collection of asbothawriterandaperson.It'shonedmywrit- 72 columns that are my personal favorites will ing, teachingmehowtoeffectivelycommunicate appear online when I return. Called "The Good with a minimal amount of waste in 800 words Word: A Decade of Jewish Thought and Chutz- or less. It's taught me discipline, introspection, pah," it will be available as both a paperback and and, to a certain degree, the confidence to, speak ebook. Look for it, and if you think a writing life my mind rather than remain silent on the most is worth supporting, buy a copy and throw a few important issues of the day and my life. It's not' good words my way. Peace out. easy. It does take time, and editing, and I think And that's the Good Word for 2012-13. The abouteverythingIsay.Andforallthat, I'mdeeply opinions in this column are those of the writer " indebted, and very grateful, and not the tten'tage or any other individual, So now I come to the end of another season agency or organization. Send your thoughts, of writing. My last child has been bar mitzvahed, comments and critiques to the Heritage or email and therewillbe no more rites ofpassage articles, L_ette_____rr from Israel I Jews here and there By Ira Sharkansky theysupportIsrael, buthavetmublewiththeIsraeli narratives of what happens in the Middle East. Among the unpleasantness that Israeli Jews We hear that Barack Obama is the most Jewish experience is the awareness that Jews along with of American presidents, due to years spent close ArabsandothersaredemonstratingagainstIsrael. to Jewish neighbors, friends, and colleagues in Noam Chomsky's involvementin persuading Ste- Chicago. However, at least some of the Jews close phenHawkingtocancelhisappearanceatanIsraeli to him would be outliers in Israeli politics. conference was a prominent example, consistent It is culture more than religion that separates with Chomsky's record and perhaps reinforced AmeiicanandIsraeliJews.Itislikelythatmajorities by his own denial of entry to the country as an of both populations would fall somewhere on the undesirable person, secular side of any spectrum designed to measure Thereare Israeli Jews who have joined the Pal- religiosity.However, differencesbetweenAmerican estinians'campaignofBDS (boycott, disvestment, and Israeli Jews who are observant contribute to sanctions). They fit the image of man bites dog, the political distance between the communities. but are outnumbered by American Jews--to the Most American Jews practice their religion in left of J-Street--joining the chants on campuses Conservative or Reform congregations, while and shouting down Israelis and others trying to almost all religious Israeli Jews are Orthodox. speak in behalf of Israel. It is the Orthodox among American Jews who While some of the anti-Israel Jewish phenom- identify most closely with Israel, who are most enon refli~cts the Jewish syndromes of individual- likelytovoteRepublican, andwithaneyetoissues ism, creativity, andcontentiousness,atleastpartof concerning Israel. it comes from the separate development of Jewish It is not appropriate to force American and cultures that have drifted from the common roots Israeli Jews onto the same political spectrum shaced by earlier generations, due to their different national experiences and Who is a Jew? is a problem with different mani- the distinctive issues in each domestic arena. On festations, ranging from issues of identity among international issues shared by the two countries, assimilated Jews and products of intermarriage, there are American Jews on the extreme right, as and the sizable number who do not pass muster well as leftists opposed to whatever Israel is doing. with Orthodox rabbis. Estimates are about 14 mil- Meir Kahan~ and a number of the most aggres- lion Jews throughout the world, with th'~ largest sive of the settlers came to Israel from the United numbers in Israel and the United States, quarrels States with a mission to dealwith Jews wh0were aboutwhich country has the most, with no other soft on the Arabs. I hear more ofterl from Ameri- country having as many as 10 percent of those in can than Israeli Jews that Israel should solve the Israel or the U.S. Arab problem once and for all, with some of them The overwhelming maj0rity ofAmerican Jews, demanding a wholesale expulsion of Arabs from and about half of Israeli Jews are several genera- the Land of Israel. tions from the cultures shared by their families in Some of the differences between the two Jewish Eastern Europe. Most American Jews come from communities are more symbolic than substan- migrations that preceded the Holocaust, while tire. American Jews celebrate holidays linked to IsraelisofEuropeanoriginandmiddleageorolder national history that mean little if anything to are likely tobe the "generation without grandpar- Israelis.AmericanJewsmayrecognizethereligious ents." Half of Israeli Jews come from elsewhere in significance of Passover and--fewer of them-- the Middle East, with family memories shared by Succoth, butthoseare notoccasionsinthe United only a minority of Americans. States for the closure of public institutions and Both communities have developed in their weeklong family vacations. Israeli Independence own directions since whatever they shared in Day, MemorialDay, andHolocaustRemembrance the 1940s. While Israel has become a modern DayaremoredeeplyembeddedamongIsraelithan Sparta, American Jews are prominent in avoiding American Jews. a military experience thathas beenvoluntary since American Jews worry about a lack of Israeli sen- 1973. On one of my visits to lecture atWest Point sitiv.itytothepoliticalagendasofliberalpoliticians in the 1980s, I encountered a Jewish colonel who they support, especially on the issue of Palestine. taught sociology, and provided mewith one of his Israelis worry about Jewish assimilation in the papers showing that there were few Jews in the United States, the passing of generations with U.S. military who were not attorneys, physicians, high Jewish identity that had bought Israelbonds accountants, or in some other profession having and contributed to Israeli institutions. AIPAC, little to do with combat. Birthright, and linkages between American and The Davidvs Goliath motif--derived from popu- Israeli universities reach out to youngerAmerican lar culture if not from the Book of Samuel--may Jews.Differencesbetweenthenationalculturesare explain the appeal of Palestinians' narrative to more shades of gray, rather than black andwhite. Jews who have grown up above the socioeconomic Young American Jews organize pro-Israel rallies median of the United States and beyond the time and speak out against Israel-bashing by fellow when being Jewishwas aproblem. The families of students and faculty members. their Israeli counterparts have freshermemories of What about other sizable Jewish communities? Europe or living amongAmbs. Most Israeli Jews at NonehasmorethanafractionofthoseintheUnited the age ofAmerican coUege students are in the IDF, States. Each has a distinctive national history. Dur- and are likely to have relatives or acquaintances ingtheheightofthegreatJewishmigrationsfrom inthe military cemeteries. They rememberexplo- Europe, the United States more than other coun- sions in buses and restaurants, and ai'e exposed to tries recei~)ingnumerousimmigrantsemphasized daily reports of tensions between A~rabs and Jews. assimilation into a melting pot. Conservative and Intermarriage is not exclusively American, but Reform Judaism became dominant in the United its much higher incidence in the United States States, as opposedto their minority status among has contributed to the cultural separation of Jews in Israel and elsewhere. Israeli and American Jews. We have friends who We may all be Jews, but we do not read from came here as non-Jews on avisit or as volunteers, the same prayer book if we read from any prayer found a mate, and remained as parents of Israelis. book. Neither do we agree about whatever are the Some have converted, but not others. Perhaps a important issues of politics, or whatwe should be third of the million immigrants from the former doing about them. Soviet Union are not recognized as Jewish by the Diversity of views has been true of Jews for Rabbinate. However, they have lived in Israel for millennia. Now it may be more true, given the several decades, speak Hebrew aswell as Russian. freedom of Jews to live as they wish in avariety of Their children are indistinguishable from secular countries, eachwiththeirowncultureandagenda. Israeli Jews. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus, Depart- Most American Jews have been Democrats in mentotPolificalScience, Hebrew~ofJeru- their generations since Roosevelt. Many say that salem.Hernaybereachedatir~col~.