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July 2, 2010

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PAGE 4A By Rabbi Aaron D. Rubinger HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 2, 201,0 A confession from one of 'Obama's rabbis' name was given to Rabbi Moline because of my years of work on behalf of Israel: organizing Israel advocacy programs; helping to unite my community in rallies in support of Israel; creat- ing a community-wide "Stop Iran Now" rally in Orlando in 2006, and being arrested in New York in 2007 with 19 other rabbis protesting against Iran outside the United Nations. I was invited, as I also believe my colleagues were, because we are known in our communities to be "Israel support- ers" not "Obama supporters." Rabbi Moline, who has been so unkindly maligned in many editorials, urged the rabbis in our pre-meeting before we entered the White House "not to hold back," "not to be intimated by Rahm or by being in the White House" and to "please, let them have it!" We were there not to help the president's polls number go back up within the American Jewish community. We went there to express our own grave fears, and those As on of the "Washington 15;' the delegation of U.S. rabbis who had two meetings at the White House with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Ambassador Dennis Ross, I and my colleagues have been accused of selling out Israel on the altar of the Democratic Party, and some have even compared us to Jewish leaders in the 1940s who refused to confront FDR and make the effort to save Jewish lives in Europe. I have read several such pieces in both the Anglo-Jewish and secular and Israeli press and have witnessed how this distortion is becoming accepted as reality. In point of fact, Rabbi Jack Moline did not seek out "Obama boosters" to attend the meetings. If he had, I would not have been invited. When I inquired as to why I w invited, Rabbi Moline informed me that I was "recommended by other pro-Israel supporters in Florida." I believe my Emanuel school furor about religiosity, not segregation By Avi Shafran Those parents,, however, insisted--and con- NEWYORK (JTA)--The recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling against parents of students in the Jewish town of Emanuel and the ensuing massive haredi-Orthodox demonstrations on the parents' behalf present an opportunity either to jump to conclusions or objectively evaluate the facts. Several Sephardic parents--Israelis of North African and Middle Eastern backgrounds--in the townbrought alawsuitaimedatpreventingother parents ofstudentswho had been studying in the local Belt Yaakov girls' school from maintaining a new school the latter group had established. The court ruled that the new school was born of illegal ethnic discrimination and later that the "new school" parents' subsequent second choice--to send their daughters to a school in another city--also was forbidden to them. The court fined those parents for each day they refused to comply with its order to return their children to the Emanuel Beit Yaakov, threatened them with prison and then made good on the threat. On June 17 the parents, wearing their Sabbath clothes, were held aloft and given a send-off to the prison by a peaceful crowd of tens of tho .usands singing and dancing in a demonstration of support for the parents. What gives here? There are two versions. First, the one presented by most media: Racial prejudice lay at the root of the parents' desire for a separate school for their children and their refusal to abide by the court ruling. The large number of supporters who turned out on their behalf reflected a general haredi Ashkenazi disdain for Sephardim. Version 2-The jailed parents sought only to preserve the religious standards the Emanuel school had maintained for many years. Changing demographics over the years in Emanuel brought an influx of families with less stringent standards of Jewish observance, dress and insularity (in- duding things like the use Of the Internet and personal messaging, which are shunned by many haredim for religious reasons) than the original residents of the town. Some of the longtime residents with school- age children saw a need for two differert edu- cational institutions to service Emanuel's girls. That most of the new families happened to be of Sephardic heritage played no role at all in that decision. The first version was endorsed by Israel's Supreme Court, which pronounced that the new school evidenced prejudice and ordered the parents who had founded it to return their children to the Emanuel Beit Yaakov. tinue to insist--thatthe court findingwaswrong and that their choice was a matter of religious conscience. They refused to be coerced to send their children to a school of the court's choice and readily went to jail fighting for that right. The larger haredi community, wary of the Supreme Court in the best of circumstances and seeing it as having ignored clear facts in this case, rallied to the parents' side. Which version reflects the truth? There is no doubt that discrimination against Sephardim exists in Israeli society, and that it is pernicious and must be fought wherever it appears. The question at issue in Emanuel, though, is whether such discrimination or, rather, parents' concerns for the tenor of their children's education--motivated the establish- ment of the new school. Several simple facts, although oddly absent from most news reports, seem to point in one direction: More than a quarter of the girls who had been enrolled in the new schoolwere Sephardim. And there were Ashkenazi girls who remained in the original Beit Yaakov, too. What is more, not one applicant to the new school was rejected. Any girl willing to abide by the school's standards was welcomed, regardless of her ethnic background. The "segregation," it seems, consisted of nothing more than two schools offering two different sets of religious standards. The Supreme Court emperor's nakedness may have been most succinctly voiced by one of the parents who went to jail as he was held aloft by the crowd and a reporter's microphone was put before him. "Are you a Sephardi?" asked the off-camera voice, its owner having apparently noticed the man's complexion. 'les," he replied, "A Yemenite." Then, with a wry smile at the absurdity of it all, he added, 'A Yemenite is being taken in [to prison] for racism. You understand?" Yet the headlines blared on, using charged phrases like "ethnic prejudice" and "segrega- tion," and portraying the jailed parents and their supporters as seeking to discriminate against Sephardim, invoking, as did the court, the struggle by American blacks for civil rights in the 1950s and '60s. They got it backward. The haredi parents and marchers were championing their rights as par- ents to educate their children as they wish. They, if anyone, are the Martin Luther Kings here. The court, sad to say, assumed the Bull Connor role. Rabbi A_vi Shafran is director of public affairs of Agudath Israel of America. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. [   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Gloria Yousha Paulette Harmon Kim Fischer Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage Account Executives paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. Barbara do Carmo Marci Gaeser POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Contributing Columnists Fern Park, FL 32730. Iim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein Terri Fine Ed Ziegler MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 ( 407 ) 834-8787 Production Department Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 David Lehman David Gaudio Teri Marks email: Loft Apple Elaine Schooping Gil Dombmsky of our communities, as to the direction of the Obama administration in the Middle East, after hearing very harsh criticism against Israel by Obama officials, following Vice President Biden's visit to Israel. I never asked the other rabbis who they voted for in 2008, or where they stood politically, be- cause U.S. politics was never the issue at these meetings. Our concern was about a president who seemed to "care more about the building of homes in Jerusalem than he did about the build- ing of bombs in Iran." In part, what motivated me and the others to attend was to learn if that description was accurate. But, let me. first, make a personal confession. I did not vote for President Obama. I voted for Senator McCain. I also helped organize several "Night To Honor Israel" programs in Central Florida, working hand in hand with pro-Israel Evangelicals, many of whom lean to the right politically. I attended the Christians United for Israel Summit held in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2008as a guest of the Evangelical community of Orlando, and I publicly wrote to defend the reputation of Pastor John Hagee when Jewish leaders on the left were attacking a man whom I still believe to be one of Israel's best friends in the U.S. I have been criticized by fellow Jews on the left for being naive and foolish in not realizing what Evangelicals who express support for Israel "are really after." Now, because I have expressed my sincere belief that, putting some very unfortunate rhetoric aside (which we were told we would no longer be hearing), current U.S. policies--matters of real tachlis, of real substance related to Israel's security needs--have not fundamentally changed since the Bush administration, I, again, am being called naive and foolish, this time by fellow Jews from the right. Maybe we were being used as part of a "charm offensive" to the Jewish community. Maybe it was al! politically motivated. If so. frankly, I don't even care. What I do care about is Israel's safety and, therefore, I know that it is vital that the pro-Israel community in the U.S. be willing and able to work with any U.S. administration that wants to maintain a strong friendship with Israel. even if mistakes had been made (on both sides) and, even too, if itis only motivated by political considerations. What? Other U. S. administrations had no such concerns? Now who's being naive? No one is infallible and I do not personally know any ne'veim (prophets) who can-tell us what the future will bring from this White House. However, from what I heard and learned in those White House meetings, President Obamais doing much more than people realize to seek to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, and he is also helping in concrete measures to secure the safety of Israeli citizens. My late father, z"l, taught me that we Jews should never turn down an open hand of friend- ship, because, as Jews, there will never be many hands extended towards us. There are; obviously, some American Jews who care more about their political ideology than they do about Israel's fu- ture. They exist on both the left and the right. But Rabbi Jack Moline and the 14 other U.S. rabbis, such as myself, who went to the White House. did so not t forward a particular political agenda but, rather, to help solidify the relationship between Israel and its most important ally. RabbiAaron D. Rubinger is the senior rabbi Of Congregation Ohev Shalom in Orlando. He was a volunteer in Israel during the Yore Kippur War and was also in Israel during the Gulf War. As an activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry, he was sent to the USSR three times by the RabbinicalAssembly of America to meet and assist refusenicks. " Jim Shipley Three places Jews don't want to live By Jim Shipley a good climate for Jews. Unfortunately, those There was a time when Jews could not live everywhere--not even in the United States. Those of us of a certain age remember when Mi- ami Beach was "restricted'--meaning no Jews. So, we bought the place. Solved that problem. But today, as a matter of choice, I wonder why Jews would choose to live in certain places around this nation of ours. Start with Kentucky. Look, I understand the Libertarian mind-set. Government should defend our borders, issue currency and regulate interstate commerce. Period. Well, it just does not come out that simple in these times. Everybody should be left pretty much alone. Sounds great. People starve or die of disease because they cannot afford medical care, so be it. But if this was the law of the land, well, we still might be in Miami Beach, but we would not live in places like Shaker Heights, Ohio. which had restrictive covenants up until the late 1940s. Restaurants would not be obliged to serve black people, brown people, Asian people or Jews. Same for hotels or maybe racetracks, public golf courses andswimmingpools. Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for senator from Kentucky believes that. He rnightwaffle a bit, but deep in his heart--that is what he would like to see. Every business and by extension, every town should be able to write its own rules of inclusion and exclusion. So, would you like to live in Kentucky under those circumstances? I think not. Rand Paul is running for the senate and not the governor's chair so he will not be able to impact local life in Kentucky. But, if he gets elected--meaning most Of the voters in the Blue Grass State agree with him--you can bet your Confederate money that one of the next nominees for governor is going to borrow the platform. Let's now move to the sovereign state of Texas, where the incumbent governor has toyed with the idea of seceding from the Union. Let's think about that. An America without Texas. Not a bad idea now that I think of it. But, they are still here. And so, when the school board of the state decides that the founders did not really intend to separate church and state and the state should be run on Christian prin- ciples, whatever that means, look out. The new textbooks in the state are going to reflect theory and theology in place of facts and science. Not same textbooks might well be used elsewhere because volume buying makes them a good deal. Then there is Arizona. They are overwhelmed with illegal immigrants. So they say. But you know what? Crime in the desert is down over the past three years. Considerably down. So, gee, that is not an excuse. The present law is a form of defining "the other." And we have been that too often to forget. It is in our genes, and we should not agree with any law that says you can get taken off the street simply because of how you look. In our history we know what it is like to not be welcome. Ithas happened over and over again in our history. But, you say, not in the USA. OK, we have not been rounded up and sent to another land since...since when? In the U.S., it is since 1920. Yep, in 1920, the wife of the president, in essence running the country while her husband recovered from a secret stroke, colluded with the Attorney General of the United States, one A. Mitchell Palmer, to round up people who were suspected of being communists and ship them back to Europe. Anywhere in Europe. Guess no- body told Palmer that Europe was not a country. Of those rounded up and shipped off, many were actually American citizens. They were overwhelmingly from the neighborhoods where Jews from Eastern Europe settled when they came here. Palmer is reported to have said, "Not every communist is a Jew, but every Jew is a communist." Oh--and the young Justice Department lawyer in charge of the raids? One J. Edgar Hoover. Freedom and our way of life hangs by a slender thread at all times. The threats to us and our way of life do not all come from the mountains of Mghanistan or Yemen. They do not all come from fanatics who are co- opted by renegade mul- lahs and imams. There is a threat to us within our political system. Call them the Tea Party, call them school boards who believe in ideology over science, call them any group who believes that our hard earned freedom has gone too far. Whackos are whackos. Eric Hoffer said in his book "The True Believer" that the far right and the far left are not that far apart in their theolo- gies. Thosewho seekto delegitimize Israel are no more fearful than those who would delegitimize any human being. And no. I was not invited to the retirement party for Helen Thomas.