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nliJiiWililLl ll'----ir ..... i|n--'llL] IHitE ]HHLillliJ PAGE 20A By Paul Lungen Canadian Jewish News Libyan strongman Moam- mar Gadhafi was in Italy recently, ostensibly to mend fences and pave the way to improved diplomatic and economic relations. While the Italian govern- ment has pledged $5 billion (U.S.) to Libya as restitution for the colonial period, Jewish advocates were wondering why the North African coun- try has not done the same for the Jews it mistreated. Two weeks ago, a foreign affairs committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies (parliament) heard testimony outlininghowArab countries, including Libya, disenfran- chised and expelled their Jewish citizens following the creation of the State of Israel. Speaking on behalf of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), Irwin Coffer described the events that fol- HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 3, 2009 I Italian deputies learn about Jewish refugees lowed the 1947 rejection by Palestinian and Arab leaders of a U.N. plan to establish a Jewish and a Palestinian state. The result was the creation of a Palestinian refugee popula- tion, along with "a second, almost unknown, group of refugees, namely Jewish refu- gees from Arab countries." Coffer, a Liberal MP and former justice minister, said narratives of the Middle East conflict usually omit reference to Jewish refugees, focusing almost exclusively on the plight of Palestinians. Yet, around the time the Palestinian and wider Arab leadership was proclaiming a "war of extermination" against the Jewish state, Arab countries were acting against their indigenous Jewish pop- ulations--'disenfranchising them, dispossessing them of their property, arbitrarily ar- resting and detaining them, imprisoning and torturing them, and also murdering them," he told the parliamen- tarians. Following his presentation to the deputies, Cotler ad- dressed the Italy-Israel Par- liamentary Group on Iran and the Rome Jewish community on the issue of justice for Jews from Arab lands. The hearings in Rome were Organized with the support of Fiama Nirenstein, vice-chair of the foreign affairs com- mittee in the Italian parlia- ment. Nirenstein has taken an interest in the issue and has agreed to champion it in the Chamber of Deputies, said Stanley Urman, executive director of JJAC. Parliamentarians in other European democracies have likewise lent their support to JJAC's efforts to publicize the history of Middle Eastern and North African Jews. Some 850,000 were made refu- gees-more than the number of Palestinian refugees--but their situation has been largely ignoredJJAC contends any peace settlement involv- ing Palestinian refugees must take into account the interest of Jewish refugees. Bringing the issue of Jew- ish refugees from Arab lands to the Italian Chamber of Deputies is part of a wider educational strategy. "We have targeted the Quartet as the main international en- tity trying to promote peace negotiations," Urman said. The Quartet comprises the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia. "JJAC is a catalyst. We try to motivate and mobilize the most important people to speak on behalf of the issue," Urman said. Cotler, an honorary co- chair of JJAC, who has also made the case for Jewish refu- gees to British MPs and the U.S. Congress, is scheduled to address German parliamen- tarians in early July. The U.S. Congress has sponsibility for the suffering adopted a JJAC proposal, of [displaced] Palestinians. passing a law that advises We demand the Arab world U.S. diplomats to raise the accept responsibilityforthe issue of Jewish refugees in international forums when Palestinian refugees are cited, Urman said. Italy is an important player on this issue, as the country hosted many Libyan and Egyptian Jews who fled their homelands. According to JJAC'swebsite (, from 1949 to 1951, 30,000 Jews fled Libya. A series of anti-Jewish laws were passed beginning in the 1950s, one of which allowed the state to seize Jewish-owned property if the owner had any contact with Zionism. Urman said JJAC's pur- pose is to convince opin- ion makers "to accept the fact there were two victim peoples of the Middle East conflict. The Palestinians demand Israel accept re- ill treatment of Jews and for losses we have suffered." Cotler said that many people who are otherwise well informed have never heard of the "forgotten exodus" of Jewish refugees. He suggested the remedy for the victims of this "forced exodus" included "active remembrance," acknowledg- ment by the perpetrators, the need for the U.N. to include Jewish refugees in any Mideast negotiations and to eventually provide financial restitution to Jewish victims. "Youcan make the case that a proportion of that [Italian] indemnification should go to the Jews of Libya, who were double victims, of the Italian fascist regime and the Libyan government's participation in the assault on Libyan Jews," Cotler said. Rabbi recounts tale from Orthodoxy to Reconstructionism By Amanda Pazornik j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California If anyone was destined to become an Orthodox rabbi, it was Jacob Staub. His parents named him after the late Jacob Joseph, chief rabbi of New York City's Association of American Orthodox Hebrew Congre- gations. He was raised in a Modern Orthodox community in New York City and attended yeshiva at a young age, with the expectation of continuing his Jewish education through high school and college. He took everything seri- ously. He was a "good boy." There was just one prob- lem: "I dreaded turning 13," Staub, now 58, recalls. "I knew there were all these things I was doing wrong. Rabbi Jacob Staub "Andwhenyou become abar mitzvah, you're responsible for all of your sins. Oh, and you'll burn in hell for them." Fear and depression be- came virtual speed bumps on Staub's journey to find a God unlike the one he prayed to as a child. The Orthodox move- ment no longer worked for him. But another stream did. And only somewhat re- cently, about 14 years ago, did he make that discovery. "I'm a Reconstructionist," Staub says. "I personally be- lieve in a non-personal God, a God that doesn't hear my prayer, literally." "He's got a remarkable way of getting to the core of spirituality without insist- ing people look at God in the traditional form," says Rosalind Glazer, a rabbi at the Reform-Conservative Beth Israel-Judea and Staub's for- mer student. "Jacob reminds us that you can be true to your spirit, and Jewish and intellectual curiosity." Staub is a professor of Jewish philosophy and spiri- tuality at the Reconstruc- tionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa. He also chairs the college's Department of Medieval Jewish Civilization and directs its Jewish Spiri- tual Direction program. He talks on "Prayer and the Non-believer," loosely based on his field of expertise: Medieval Jewish philosophy. He touches on questions such as, "Why pray if it's not to ask for something?" and, subsequently, "Why cultivate any spiritual practice at all?" "We're not the first people to be praying when we think God doesn't hear what we're praying for," Staub says. "Maimonides, for example, thought that God was above the details of the world." Staub's recent visit to the Bay Area coincided with Pride 2009, San Francisco's weekend parade and celebra- tion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. And while he didn't march, Staub, who is gay, says his sexuality was a factor--albeit sub- liminally--in his turning to Reconstructionist Judaism. He didn't come out until he was 49. "Part of my spiritual growth allowed it to hap- pen," Staub says. "It was a moment. I was sitting at a weeklong retreat, noticing what thoughts were arising and letting them go. I noticed that, boy, I was spending a lot of time thinking about men...and working harder to make sure I was attracted to women," Following that revela- tion, Staub came out to his wife and three children. He remembers feeling "free" at first, before the complica- tions of a four-year divorce set in. "The colors were brighter," Staub says. "It was an im- mediate blessing. But I still have the shards of life. "My partner and I are get- ting married in November. Nine years later, I'm still putting things back together. My kids are walking me down the aisle, but i's not so easy." But it's all part of Staub's personal and spiritual jour- ney. "People would like to come [to synagogue] for spiritual reasons, but they often don't know how," he says. "I hope they understand that a feel- ing of spiritual closeness can occur even if you don't believe in the God you were taught about in Hebrew school." Amanda Pazornik is a staff writer at j. the Jewish news weekly of northern california from which this article was reprinted by permission. Artist walks down the 'Jewish' streets of Germany By Dan Pine j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California Walking around Berlin some years ago, artist Susan Hiller saw the street sign above her: It read Juden- strasse, or Jews' Street. How odd, she thought, in a land that nearly wiped out its Jews, that there should be a Jews' Street. Hiller soon learned Berlin wasn't the only place in Ger- many with such a street. In more than 300 locales across the country, streets with similar names abounded. But why? Hiller wanted to find out. The result is an exhibition of photographs and a film documenting every single "Jew Street" in Germany. Titled the J. Street Project, the exhibit runs through Aug. 18 at San Fcancisco's Contemporary Jewish Mu- seum. It recently ran for three months at the Jewish Museum in New York City, which organized the exhi- bition in partnership with the CJM. "I found 303 places that have these names," Hiller says from her London home, "and there must have been more." Whether Judenstrasse, Judenbergstrasse or Juden- pfad, the streets were named for Jewish neighborhoods through which they ran. The Nazis changed all 303 names in an effort to erase Jewish history in Germany, but after the war, the denazification process included restoring nearly all of the streets to their original Jewish names. Hiller, who is Jewish, stud- ied maps and traveled across Germany to get her photos. She says the exhibition is "a prolonged meditation on the ordinary and the terrible. You see ordinary places where people go about their business. You see children playing there. I thought of the children who are not there." Mounted on floor-to-ceil- ing blocks, Hiller's photos have a plainness to them. She used no filters or darkroom effects in her prints, most of which show street corners in quaint villages or teem- ing cities. One image even shows the Judenmerestrasse (Jewish Wall Street) at the corner of Karl Marx Strasse. The first street name is a bastardiza- tion of Latin, indicating how the Jews first came to Germany with the ancient Romans; the second street was named for the Jewish founder of communism 150 years ago. Hiller grew up in Coral Gables, Fla., and is the daughter of a German-born Jew. After graduating from Smith College in 1961, she went on to study at Tulane under a National Science Foundation fellowship in anthropology. After completing field- work in Latin America, she left anthropology in 1969 and settled in London with her husband. It was then that she began to pursue art. Her subjects have included antique postcards, horror films, UFOs and dead lan- guages. "My work is about ghosts," she says, "things nobody pays attention to, awkward, trivial, things unnoticed. That theme runs through everything." The J. Street Project has been shown in the National Art Museum in Beijing, the BAWAG Foundation in Vienna and the Kunstraum des Deutschen Bundestages in Berlin. Hiller is glad it to have had her work shown in non- Jewish venues, just as she insists on downplaying her own Jewish heritage when talking about the photos. "In Germany people were always asking about that, as if to say only a Jewish person would be interested in this subject," Hiller says. "I don't think that's true. It's important to integrate this kind of thing into a completely mixed context. If it stays a Jewish piece by a Jewish person, that makes it seem specialized." Nevertheless, Hiller ac- knowledges that creating the J. Street Project held deeper meaning for her, beyond the aesthetic. "There's another level," she says. "The fact that I went to all of those places, it was sort of a pilgrimage." J. Street Project is on display through Aug. 18 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco. Information: 415-655- 7800 or http://www. Courtesy of Susan Hiller and the Timothy Taylor Gallery, London From the exhibit, "Jiidenhain, Marienberg" shows a street sign in the small town of Marienberg, Germany.