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June 15, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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June 15, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 15, 2012 PAGE 5A Avi Shafran NEWYORK (JTA)--More American Jews will con- vergo this summer on a single spot of real estate than at any time in Ameri- can history. The locus will be MetLif.e Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.; the reason for the coming together is to celebrate To- rah study. More precisely, Talmud study. To be even more specific, the Aug. 1 gathering is the culmination of the 7 1/2- year cycle of page-a-day study known as Daf Yomi. In this world of precious little Jewish unity, of fragmentariness and frac- tiousness, in addition to a celebration of accomplish- ment and perseverance, the event is a manifestation of Jewish unity, bringing together Jews of' many stripes. Introduced in 1923 by a young Polish rabbinical leader, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, at the First International Congress of Agudath Israel in Vienna, the Daf Yomi program was devised to enhance the sense of unity among Jews worldwide through the study of Torah. As Torah study for its own sake is a high Jewish ideal, Daf Yomi serves not only as a means to the end" Of amassing Torah knowledge but as an end itself no less. In virtually every gity in the world, Daf Yomi students study the exact same page of Talmud each day. The program may well be the world's largest organized adult education initiative in modern times. And at the end of each cycle, which also is the be- ginning of the next, a good chunk of the Orthodox Jewish community comes together in various locales across North America and abroad to celebrate the achievement at a Daf Yomi "Siyum HaShas," or "completion of the Six Orders" that comprise the Talmud. In 2005, an estimated 120,000 Jews across the continent joined in the event--along with ma y thousands more in Israel, Europe and Australia. This year, for the o12th Siyum HaShas, with the Metlife Stadium alone holding up- ward Of 90,000 people, the number worldwide is sure to be considerably larger. The Siyum, though, is much more than a celebra- tion of an accomplishment. It is a de iant demonsO'a- tion of victory over those who 70 years a'go tried to .destroy European Jewry. To be sure, the Nazis con- sidered the Jews a race, but at least some of them also recognized what empowers and preserves our people. Writing in 1930, Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler's chief ideologue, identified "the honorless character of the Jew" as "embodied in the Talmud and in Shulchan- Aruch," the latter being the codified compilation- of Jewish law. Perhaps even more tell- ing was a 1940 directive issued by the German Highest Security Office. It prohibited Jewish emigra- tion from occupied Poland to the United States on the ground that an influx of "Rabbiner, Talmud-lehrer" (rabbis, te.achers of Tal- mud), and in fact "jeder orthodoxe Ostjudem" (ev- ery Eastern European Orthodox Jew) could foster "geistige Erneuer-ung" (spiri'cual renewal) among American Jewry. That fear indeed proved well-founded. Torah=com- mitted Jewish immigrants, although they arrived for the most part only after the Secpnd World War, helped rejuvenate Jewish life on these and other shores, rebuilding Jewish communal and educational institutions and fostering traditional Jewish obser- varfce in new lands, The scope of the Siyum HaShas and the excitement over the event is undeniable evidence of that, and thus a resonant slap in the face of the enemies of the Jew- ish people. There is something more, though, to the Siyum. As Rabbi Shapiro pointed out, a page of Talmud exhibits the teachings of Jews from different eras and places. The Siyum sees Jews of different communities, different modes of dress, different approaches to Jewish life all celebrating as the large family, we are. The Torah isthe heritage of all Jews, no matter what prefixes they place before their Jewishness,. no mat- ter what congregation they belong to, no matter whether they belong to any congregation at all. Our tradition teaches that Torah was the original unifier of Klal Yisrael. All of our ancestors--and our own souls, the tradition teaches--stood at the foot of Sinai "like a single per- son'~ to receive the Torah. And so, perhaps the Si- yum HaShas can offer a day of respite, an opportunity for any Jew who cares to re- capture a spark of the unity that was present at Sinai. Jews from all backgrounds, whether they choose to at- tend the event, participate through video hookups at other locations or just take an hour or two at home to sit clown on the evening of Aug. 1 with a Jewish holy book, will be joining hundreds of thousands of other Jews in focusing on what made, kept and keeps us a people. Rabbi Avi Shafran is the director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America. o By Brad Rothschild NEW YORK (JTA) Avig- dor Lieberman, Israel's foreign minister, is no one's idea of a soft touch. Hawkish on Israel's settlement policy and a practitioner mus- cular, even bullying brand of diplomacy,'Lieberman has a well-earned reputation as a hard-liner, no mean feat in Israel's current rightist government. So when Li- eberman becomes the voice of moderation on an issue. it's worth a closer look. Last week, the foreign minister criticized Israel's interior minister. Eli Yishai. for his recent statements By Marc Tracy (Sh'ma)--Every mght in New York, before going to sleep, I read tomorrow's news in Israel. Occasion- ally, I admit. I imagine an old man in a sunlit Tel Aviv breakfast nook cracking open his Haaretz over hot coffee and fresh orange juice at the exact same time that I sit in my apartment, looking out onto the dark street, yawning as I scroll through Websites on my laptop. When I wake up m the morning, I turn over and groggily check Twitter on my phone yes, people like me really do exist; be afraid and/or pray for me where I see the past few hours' tweets from people in Beijing, Doha, Ramal- lah, Jerusalem, and Paris, -and also from insomniacs in Sail Francisco and New York. I email to myself whichever tweets catch my eye so that I can read them again on my computer a few minutes and one push on the snooze button later. A friend has emailed me overnight from Berlin; an- other Gchats me from D.C. a few minutes after I log on. All of these voices are with me they are all. ef- fectively, in the same place. against the nearly 60,000 African refugees and asylum seekers who have made their way to Israel over the past half decade. Yishai has gone on record stating that Israel should build more prisons and detention centers to handle this influx. Other Israeli politicians have inflamed the situation as well. Likud Party Knesset member Miri Regev, inciting a crowd in south Tel Aviv, called the African refugees a "'cancer in our body." After hearing these words. an angry crowd embarked on a pogrom, setting upon African-run businesses and property. The African popu- on my small filthy screen. But it's my screen in my apartment in my city: Phys- ical, geographical Ioca- tion-- place sti!l matters. All of the writers, thinkers. celebrities, polit~ians, and philosophers, armchair and tenured, around the world whose thoughts I rapidly in- hale are themselves greatly influenced by where they do their thinking--something that I happen to know for a fact because I kn w I am influenced by where I do my thinking. My particular circum- stances allow me to under- stand that my counterparts have their own-particular c, ircumstances. And be- cause I know where I'm coming from, I know that other people are coming from someplace else. To take myself as an example: I can viscerally feel this loud. crammed island I live on imbuing my thinking on subjects such as the Middle East. literature, and sports with an urgency and intensity asensethat everything matters, even things that shouldn't. The East Village, once one of the world's great bohemias, makes me feel as though I should be sacrificing for my writing, lending my prose lation was left traumatized and fearful of what would happen to them next. (Re- gev later apologized for her remark.) But perhaps the most vicious voice of Israeli of- ficialdom belongs to Danny Danon, a Likud Knesset member and chairman of the Immigration, Absorp- tion and Diaspora Affairs Committee. In addition to his legislative duties, Danon is the chairman of the "De- portation Now" movement. In recent weeks he has called for African migrant workers to be removed from Israeli cities and put into detention camps. He has blamed the and ideas a sense of des per- ateness they wouldn't have if I lived elsewhere. So what's changed over the past ten or fifteen years, other than the preponder- ance of luxury condomini- ums on Avenue B? It's the striking immediacy with which we are able to access the perspectives of people from different places the different places' perspec- tives themselves. This im- mediacy, if left unchecked. could cheapen everything, and so what has happened fs that trust and credibility have become more impor- tant than ever before. You don't want to know what they are thinking in Chi- cago or Mumbai; you want to know what a particular person who lives in Chicago and a particular person who lives in Mumbai are think- ing. One could do this the old-fashioned way, by con- sulting traditional networks of family and friends, and working outward from that nucleus. Or. we can follow people through social me- dia. whom we've learned to trust because of our friends' and families' endorsements. Historically, Jews have pro- vided the model par excel- lence for far-flung networks multiplying their knowl- crisis on "bleeding-heart leftists," and the human rights and aid groups who assist the refugees. There is no question that the situation with the Africans in Israel is no longer tenable. Israel must develop a humane and or- derly process to investigate who among the Africans are legitimate asylum seekers and refugees, and who are simply economic migrants seeking a better way of life in the only western coun- try accessible by foot from Africa. Israel has no such process now and treats all of the Africans as illegal "infil- trators." The overwhelming edge and therefore, their power at geometric rates by establishing connections based on the brokering of information. And yet, the center of dis- placement is still "place." We remain intellectual creatures of our* physical. habitats. The Internet has helped us comprehend the places of others, knitting us all ever closer together. But there is still a filter, and it is us. It is a humming bazaar, but I am an autonomous merchant. So after I have my first cup of tea, I think harder about all the voices I have read from around the world or around the city and I assimilate what they say with where they are coming from. Then, I choose what to believe and what not to believe; what to buy, what to bargain down for. and what, ultimately, to sell. And then, I quit listening to the voices and begin to write. Marc Tracy is a staff writer at Tablet Magazine and editor of Tablet's daily blog, The Scroll. He tweets at @marcatracy. This essay is reprinted with permis- sion from Sh'ma (shma. com~ June 2012, as part of a larger conversation on the role of place on creativity. majority of the Africans are from war-torn Sudan and Eritrea; many have escaped, the genocide in Darfur. Yet of the 4,603 applicants who sought asylum last year, Israel granted it justone. Populist politicians around the world use the , issue of illegal immigration to spread fear and hatred throughout native Popula- tions. Israel's demagogues aren't original, but they are dangerous, as evidence'd by the recent anti-African violence in Tel Aviv. As Jews know all too well. it's a short path from hateful rhetoric to violence. When we see it happening, we have an obligation to speak out, and loudly, against it. The American Jewish community can no longer stand silent in the face of hatred, incitement and violence by Jews against the African refugees, asylum seekers and even economic migrants in its midst. The hate speech employed by Israeli officials such as Yishai, Regev and especially Danon run counter to our communal norms and our Jewish values. Until these politicians cease this ap- proach and adopt a more hu- mane and Jewish attitude to Israel's Africans, American Jews should make it clear that they are not welcofne in our community. Danny D~non is a fre- quent visitor to the United States the next time he comes, he should not be invited to any Jewish orga- nization, synagogue, com- munity center or home. The same goes for Eli Yishai and Miri Regev. These officials have made it clear that Af- ricans are not welcome in their community; we need to make it clear that those who incite violence and hatred are not welcome in ours. Brad Rothschild is the chair of Ameinu's Policy and Advocacy Committee.