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July 3, 2009

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 3, 2009 By Gary Rosenblatt New York Jewish Week NEWYORK A few months ago, Rabbi Avi Weiss was in a moral, political and ideologi- cal bind. A champion of women's religious rights within Orthodoxy, he had overseen the rabbinic training of Sara Hurwitz, a six-year staff member of his congregation, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, and taken pride in her completing the same course of Talmudic study as the male students of his Manhattan rabbinical school, Yeshivat Cho- vevei Torah. He felt she was deserving of the Between a rav and a hard place title "rabbi" and would have been honored to ordain her as such. But he also knew that taking such a step would marginalize him, and Hurwitz, in much of the Orthodox community, and on a more practical level, could make it more difficult for the young men graduating from Chovevei Torah to find jobs in mainstream Orthodox pulpits around the country. What to do? "I know he lost a lot of sleep over this," said Hurwitz. "He took this decision" about what title to give her "very seriously." In January, two months before Hurwitz was scheduled to be conferred in a public ceremony, Letter fro___m_ Israe_____l I Obarna breathes life into paternalism Rabbi Weiss suggested that about 30 leaders and activists in the Modern Orthodox community be invited to two focus groups to discuss the title she would be given. About a dozen people attended one or the other of the two sessions (Rabbi Weiss did not), and most preferred "rabbi." But in the end, Rabbi Weiss chose the creative (and confusing for many) title of"Maharat," an acronym from four Hebrew words that describe a halachic, spiritual and Torah leader. He and Maharat Hurwitz hope itwill catch on over time. Both insist that the actual title is far less important than the fact that she is, in Rabbi Weiss' words, "a full communal, congregational, religious leader, a full member of the clergy, lead- ing with the unique voice of a woman." Still, there was a good deal of disappoint- ment among those who felt this was a missed opportunity. Speaking at the March 22 conferral ceremony, Blu Greenberg, a founder of JOFA (Jewish Ortho- By Ira Shrhm "Colonial" is among the dirtiest of words for those who aspire to be politically correct. It refers to the exploitation of the weak by the strong, which no right-thinking person should tolerate. No matter that colonial power claimed itwas protecting and uplifting the weak. No matter that there is a debate as to whether colonial powers profited from their role or spent more than they reaped. No matter that in several instances the colonial power left behind physical infrastructure and training that helped the newly independent states. Slavery and blatant exploitation in the Belgian Congo, and its lack of preparation for independence set the standard for judging other places. The former colonies that became the United States were among the best treated. That is not what I learned from Anglophobic teachers in Fall River, but that is the message of recent histories. Such a judgment overlooks slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. The contrast between what I was taught and what I now read is useful in recognizing the politics goodintentions, sometimes through the Unit- ed Nations. What can be more disinterested? The United States is the primary paternalist. We can distinguish what might be called "dry paternalism," which operates here, and whose greatestsuccess turned awar-torn Europe into the European Community. "Wet paternalism" comes alongwith armed forces, as inVietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, off and on in Latin America. It is not easyto assess the balance ofbenefits and costs of American patemalism in this one small country. The history from 1967 includes military supplies and financial assistance that helped Israel greatly during periods of extreme stress. Political agreementswith Egyptin 1974and 1978-79 came with American inducements and pressure. Some Israelis argue that those agreements were not worth the concessions required. However, peace has held for 30 years on what had been a bloody front for the previous 30 years. Every American president since George H.W. Bush has tried to broker an agreement between Israel and Palestine. None have in- duced the Palestinians to be flexible enough dox Feminist Alliance), praised Rabbi Weiss as a pioneer on behalf of Jewish feminism. But when she said she would be "less than candid" if she did not note that "many of us are disappointed" that Maharat Hurwitz %vas not called 'rabbi,'" the crowd broke into applause. Maharat Hurwitz herself acknowledges some frustration, though she takes the high road. "I enjoy the struggle," she noted with a smile in an interview. And Rabbi Weiss told me: "I know some women are disappointed in me." A good deal has been written, here and elsewhere, about the significance of this step, or misstep, at the cutting edge of a Modern Orthodox community torn between the power of halachic tradition and the impulses of 21st century American commitment to equality. In a sense, Rabbi Weiss personifies that struggle, strongly committed to both values. But he is long used to living with difficult, even seemingly contradictory inner tensions. And this column is more an attempt to explore those tensions than focus on the "woman rabbi" issue, per se. Soft-spoken pastoral rabbi or firebrand ac- tivist--which is the real Avi Weiss? The truth is, both. Most of his professional career has included a deep commitment to his rabbinic dutiesatthe Hebrew Institute ofRiverdale (HIR), where he is much admired for his leadership in creating a community out of a congregation of some 800 families, known for welcoming the poor, the elderly and the mentally challenged in the neighborhood. But fie has been equally devoted to a fervent, anti-establishment activism for causes includ- ing Soviet Jewry and Israel, organizing solidarity rallies, traveling the world to protest terror attacks in South America, anti-Semitism in Europe, or a convent at Auschwitz, sometimes getting arrested. Rabbi Weiss, who turned 65 last week, has mellowed to some degree. While he still speaks and acts with passionate energy, and recently returned from another round of meetings with embattled Jewish leaders in Argentina, he is more reflective these days. He talks of regret for some positions he took years ago, like his support for those Jewish set- tiers, including personal friends, who commit- ted acts of violence against Arabs in the early 1980s. And he acknowledges that his approach toward effecting communal change has evolved. "I have gone through a transformation," he said in an interview. "I've learned that there are two ways to bring change. One is from within," like working with the establishment, "which I used to think was wrong." For most of his career, he said, "I tried from the outside." Some praised him for his audacity in taking to the barricades; others said he was grandstanding andhurtingthe cause throughnegativeattention. But in the last decade, primarily in founding Chovevei Torah, he has been working more within the community, raising millions of dollars for the school and establishing a living branch of what he calls Open Orthodoxy, with its emphasis on halacha as well as a broad concern for all Jews, intellectual openness, a spiritual dimension and a more expansive role for women. Ray on page 23A involved in judging colonialism. Britain and France were the colonial big leaguers. Spain lost out by the end of the 19th century; Germany as the result of World War I; Holland ended its play with the Japanese occupation of what became Indonesia; and Portugal petered out along with Britain and France in the 1960s. The Soviet Union claimed to be the primary anti-colonialist, but kept at something that looked like colonialism until its empire collapsed. One can argue that Russia remains a colonial power with respect to areas in the Caucasus, or that the United States has a colonial relationship with Puerto Rico. Allegations about "neo-colonialism" are also ugly. They concern the influence of powerful states and corporations over the weak. Again, reality is more complex than the image. Poor states have become heavily indebted due to the corruption of native leaders who signed contracts in exchange for large payments into their bank accounts, while buying goods and services that were not worth the price. Much of the responsi- bility should rest with the corporations making the deals. How much blame should we assign to the home countries of the enterprises, and how much to the countries ruled by corruption? The nasty images of colonialism and neo- colonialism may have served in recent years to limit their most obvious and harmful manifestations, at least in places where people restrain corruption. What has taken their place is another form of great power meddling in the affairs of lesser pow- ers. The best term I can think of is "paternalism." Like colonialism, paternalism is wrapped in lofty sentiments. The patron may work with other powerful countries in behalf of collective for an agreement. Barack Obama is breathing life into pater- nalism with his claims of a new beginning. So far he has not done well with North Korea. Commotion in Iran makes it unwise to assess the future of that country. The president's comments about Israel and Palestine have caused their own commotion, and it is too early to predict the results. The most recent action is a dictate from the State Department that there be no construction in the post-1967 neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The administration may be aiming high in order to stop construction in Har Homa. This is the newest of the neighborhoods builtwithin the boundaries that Israel declared for Jeru- salem soon after the 1967 war. Har Homa has been controversial due to its proximity to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, and claims that it hinders transportation between the northern and southern areas of the West Bank. Even a freeze applied only to Har Homa would be a severe challenge for the Israeli government. The Israeli foreign minister has said "leave us alone" almost as clearly as Obama has said that he wants to help us. Words from the State Department apply to neighbor- hoods that account for more than a third of Jerusalem's Jewish population. Will my Arab neighbors in French Hill be able to renovate their apartments while the Sharkanskys and other Jews are denied the opportunity? Varda did not respond well when I said that the State Department would not want her to buy new curtains for the dining room. Ira Sharkansky is professor emeritus, Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT.   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   x ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher IHE00ITAGE I Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor F L O R I J n W I S H N E W S Gene Stare Lyn Payne Mike Etzkin HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Sodety Editor Bookkeeping dresses ($46.95 for the rest 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. Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky Tim Boxer David Bornstein 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: Louis Ballantyne Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky Carter unmasked By Neil Rubin Baltimore Jewish Times To most Jews, the notion of former Presi- dent Jimmy Carter sitting in a West Bank Jewish home and announcing, "This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever" is as likely as the Rev. Louis Farrakhan opening a kosher deli featuring an "ADL Pastrami Special." Yet, there was Carter 12 days ago in Neve- Daniel, visiting Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. Mind you, two days later he was in Gaza City, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh at his side, saying, "I must hold back my tears at seeing the destruction that was inflicted onyour people [from Israel's 2008-2009 Gaza War]." That came after his accepting the Palestine International Award for Excellence and Creativity, which I assume was invented for the occasion. Carter also gave Haniyeh a letter written by Noam Shalit to his son, Gilad, an Israeli soldier now in year three of Hamas captiv- ity and denied visits by the International Red Cross. So who is the real Jimmy Carter? The man who shows sympathy for Jewish set- tlers and captives, or the one who coddles terrorists because, in his mind, they have a just cause--even though he has criticized their tactics? All of the sentiments are authentic Carter. And that's the problem for many Jews. Mind you, it's controversial in our com- munity to say anything good about our nation's 39th president, who both secured the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and has written three books expressing true naivet6 on the Israeli-Arab conflict. Yet, Carter is no anti-Semite or hater of Israel. I learned that while editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times in the 1990s. In those years, Carter's former Jewish supporters were large figures in the city in general and the Jewish community in particular. I once wrote a column criticizing Carter for statements made about Israel during the Oslo process. A few days later, a detailed four-page letter arrived from Robert "Bob" Lipshutz, Carter's White House counsel. He offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the president's struggle for Israeli-Egyptian peace and his positive statements about Judaism (which in the 1970s was news, seeing as how Carter was a Southern Baptist). Meanwhile, our staff photographer used to be on Carter's staff, and his brother had been Carter's communication director. From them, too, I had good reports. So Carter was no stranger to Jews and their sentiments. He simply disliked Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and could not fathom the Jewish attachment to the Land of Israel, particularly since he saw it as violating Palestinian human rights. Besides, Carter's fundamental world outlook of dialogue for its own sake has always clashed with the coarse realpolitik of the Kissinger years, which shaped the international stage upon which the former peanut mega-farmer strode. Fast forward to 2009: Carter's name is a virtual curse in our community. But the en- ergetic octogenarian won't go away. Neither will we supporters of Israel. And because of his stature and influence, Carter needs more of our attention. First, give him credit for going to West Bank Jews to understand their views. And then do more: Press him to write about the trip: Rest assured, when the New York Times and other weighty publications receive something from an ex-president, they print it. Get Carter in front of Jewish audiences, meaning, we have to invite him. Let him explain the context of what we hear he's said. Press Carter to offer Carter Center fellow- ships (i. e. protection) for Palestinian human rights advocates and even fund a Palestinian Human Rights Center in Gaza. Ask Carter to detail to Palestinians the human rights Jews should have in a Palestin- ian state. We must push Carter to go beyond the bash- ing of settlements, false claims of Israel as an apartheid society (did black South Africans ever win in their country's Supreme Court?) and the notion that Israelis will not take risks for peace (ever hear of Oslo?). Carter's twisting of truth on Israel is not malicious, but neither can it be cavalierly dismissed as unworthy of our time. Neil Rubin is editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, from which this column is reprinted with permission. Read the Times online at