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July 5, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 5, 2013 By Rafael Medoff The name "Evian" will forever be remembered as the site of an international confer- ence, 75 years ago last week, that was supposed to save the Jews of Germany--but By Ben Cohen JNS .org Over the last few weeks, there has been much reflection on the legacy of the former South Afri- can president, Nelson Mandela, as his health has deteriorated. And in the coming weeks, we can anticipate a febrile exchange over his.trueviews on Israel and the Middle East. We shouldn't underestimate the significance of such a debate. Mandela has entered the pantheon of 20th-century figures that exercised the most extraordinary influence over global events, touching the lives of ordinary mortals in the process. In the i940s, many Britons could tell you exactly where they were when Churchill delivered his famous "Blood, Sweat and Tears" speech to the House of Commons; in the 1960s, it was ha;d to find an American who coulln't remember his or her precise location when the news of Kennedy's assassina- tion came through; and in the 1990S, it seemed, at least to me, that absolutely everyone could recall what they were doing at the moment the world learned that Mandela had been released after serving 27 years in a South By Rick Jacobs NEW YORK (JTA)--Is Juda- ism the problem or the solution to women's equality? Try telling agunot, women who are chained to their hus- bands unable to obtain a get, a religious divorce, that they are equal to men. Overarching Jewish values like b'tzelem Elo- him--thatall people are created in the image of God--may teach equality, but the day-to-day reality of too many women tells us of a struggle that is far from complete. Is the pervasive inequality of women in Israel and in many other societies God's will or men's will? The majority of God language in our liturgy and our sources is masculine, which some have argued is simply the result of the Hebrew language being gendered. But imagine the cumulative effect of boys and girls growing up hearing God referred to only as He, Lord, Father and King. As feminist theologians have pointed out, "If God is male, then male is God." One could conclude-- wrongly--that Jewish theology supports the privileged place of men in ritual and society. Nineteenth-century leaders of Reform Jewry knew that Judaism needed to be updated. Liberal-leaning scholars and rabbis in Breslau in 1846 de- clared ',the female sex" the "religious equal of the male" with regard to "obligations and rights." They proposed expung- ing the prejudicial benediction Evian: Symbol of Holocaust failure, but hope for African refugees? instead sealed their doom. Evian, however, should also be remembered for its link to the rescue of a different group of refugees in the 1970s, the so-called "boat people" fleeing the Communist takeover of Southeast Asia. Now, perhaps Evian will go'down in the history books for yet another reason--as a turning point in addressing the problem of the tens of thousands of African refugees who have entered Israel in recent years. With the persecution of Jews in Germany and Aus- tria intensifying in 1938 and refugee advocates urging U.S. intervention, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administra- tion initiated an international conference in the French resort town of Evian-les-Bains from July 6-15 to address the crisis. Thirty-two countries agreed to send delegations. In his announcement, Presilent Roosevelt empha- sized that "no nation would be expected or asked to receive a greater number of emigrants than is permitted by its exist- ing legislation." The U.S. also assured Great Britain that Nelson Mandela and Zionism African jail. were just as bad, if not worse, reign, fear and want would be bishop Desmond Tutu, to share Icertainly rememberwhere I Indeed, I couldn't help thinking banished, and self-government the South African franchise on was on February 11,1990,when that they regarded Mandela's wouldemergeasacoreprinciple, the word "apartheid" with the Mandela finally exited prison, release as welcome relief from Elsewhere in the book. hetakes Palestinians. Alongwiththousandsofothers, the gloom that set in when care to distinguish the African But those activists who want I stoo dat the gates of the South communism unraveled around nationalism he subscribed to to make the Palestinian cause African Embassy in London, an the same time. from the communist beliefs the 21st-century equivalent of imposing edifice on the eastern Which brings me to the that prevailed among those the movement that opposed side of TrafaigarSquare. Dur- question of Mandela's political he worked with--and his un- South African apartheid in the ing my late teens, I'd become a legacy.Therewillbenoshortage derstanding of nationalism 20th century will--assuming regular attendee at rallies and of platitudes on the left about bears a close resemblance to theyconformtobasicstandards protests outside the embassy Mandela's nonetheless heartfelt the national movements that of honesty find itverydifficult demanding Mandela's release. I commitmenttoracialtolerance, surfaced in Europe at the end of to invoke Mandela as support. can still hear the joyous roar of painstaking negotiation and the nineteenth century, includ- Mandela's memoirs are full of the crowd gathered around me, civil disobedience in the face ing Zionism. positive references to Jews and as we celebrated the fact that of injustice. Equally, many on Thislatterpointisimportant even Israel. He recalls that he Mandela was no longer a pris- the right will accurately recall because there is a widespread learned about guerilla warfare oner of the apartheid regime that Mandela'sAfrican National misapprehension that Mandela not from Fidel Castro, but from Before this account gets Congress (ANC) was closely wasanopponentofZionismand Arthur Goldreich, a South Af- overly saccharine, I should al!gned with the Soviet Union Israel. In part. that's because a rican Jew who fought with the add that not every opponent of and with a host of thoroughly mischievous letter linking Is- Palmach during Israel's War of apartheidwasaconsistentadvo- unpleasant terrorist organiza- raelwithapartheid, purportedly Independence. He relates the cate of democracy elsewhere in tions, like the PLO, whodressed written by Mandela. went viral anecdote.ttiat the only airline the w('.ld. Many of the protes- themselves up as "liberation on the Internet (in fact, the real willing to fly his friend, Walter tors around me were, frankly, movements." As a recipient of author was a Palestinian activ- Sisulu.toEumpewithoutapass- diehard Stalinists. And while both the Soviet Order of Lenin ist named Arjan el Fassed. who port was Israel's own EIAI. And they 'accurately perceived the and the American Presidential laterclaimedhathisfabrication theultimatesmokinggun the monstrositythatwasapartheid, Medal of Freedom, it might be neverthelessreflectedMandela's equation of Israel's democracy they were only too happy to saidthatMandelaembodiedthis true feelings.) Yet it's also true with apartheid--doesn't exist. excuse the brutal crimes of the contradiction, that, intheColdWarconditions Mandela once wrote that Soviet Union and its satellite Still, Mandelawas no ortho- ofthetime.theANC'smainallies Jews, in his experience, were states. They had copious words doxleftisL Inhisautobiography, alongside the SovietswereArab far more sensitive about race of condemnation for the white hediscusseshowhewhsstr0ng- and third-world dictators like because of their own history. minorityregimeinPretoria, but ly influenced by the Atlantic hhmedBenBellainAlgeriaand Now. it is absolutely true that theyrolledtheireyesinirritation Charterof1941,amissionstate- Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. there are parallels between the atthesuggestionthattheSoviet ment shaped by the visions of The confusion is further stirred oppression suffered by South KGB, the East German Stasi ChurchillandFDRforapost-war by the enthusiasm of some of African blacks under racist and the Romanian Securitate order in which freedom would Mandela's comrades, like Arch- white rulers, and Jews living Israel must grantequality to women -PAGE 5A Mandatory Palestine would not be discussed as a possible refuge; the British feared admitting more Jews to the Holy Land would anger the Arab world. The July 6 opening session vian on page 19A underhostile non-Jewish rulers. The notorious Group Areas Act, which restrictedblack residency rights, brings to mind the en- forced separation of Jews into the "Pale of Settlement" by the Russian Empress Catherine in 1791. Many of the other apartheid regulations, like the ban on sexfJal relationships be- tweenwhites andblacks, carried echoes of the Nazi Nuremburg Laws of 1935. Mandela's diagnosis was that Africans should be the sovereigns of their own destiny. Similarly, the founders of Zion- ism wanted nothing less for the Jews. Sadly, none of that will stop today's advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement from falsely claim- ing Nelson Mandela as one of their own. But the truth is subtler than that. Mandela's complicated legacy doesn't really belong to any political stream--and that is one more reason to admire him. Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha' aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications. "shelo asani ishah" from the thatembraceequalityofwomen By Rosh Chodesh Kislev, canopy, to the cemeteries, to liturgy, obligating women to is the Jewish State of Israel. as global outrage grew. Prime theworkplacesofIsrael,women the same religious instruction Weknowthegreatmalesages Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are not yet treated equally. andpublicworshipas men, and of the Talmud--Rabbi Hillel, appointed Natan Sharansky Haredi Orthodox Judaism is raising the age ofgirls' religious RabbiAkibaandRabbiYohanan to resolve the growing divide a legitimate choice for those maturation fromthetraditional Ben Zakkai. Butwhat about the between the State of Israel and who choose it, but it must not 12to 13tomatchthatprescribed unsung female sages? world Jewry. remain the default position of for boys. For instance, Ima Shalom, Women's struggle for equal- the Jewish state. In 1876, three years after mentioned in the Talmud, hails ity includes the Western Wall, As a country that aspires to RabbiIsaacMayerWise founded from a distinguished family, but our struggle does not end be guided by Jewish values, the the North American Reform Both her father and brother there it is only the beginning State of Israel must fight for movement, heinsistedthat"the headed the Sanhedrin, the of the fight for desperately the equal rights of women. As principle of justice, and the law ancient court of sages. Her needed changes, long as Orthodoxy is the only of G0dinherentineveryhuman husband, EliezerbenHyrcanus, Also among the gates of Bones be admitted to membership in Ima Shalom, known for her of Rosie Davidian, a tradition- the congregation, and be given keen intellect and wise sayings, ally observant woman from the equal rights with men." said, "All gates are closed except Negev. Rosie is a single mother P T I'RCA:' Since 1972, when Sally the gates of wounded feelings." who wanted to say Kaddish for Priesand was ordained as the ShemeantthatGodwillalways her father buried in Ofakim. A A- gO ! first female rabbi by the Reform hear the prayers of those who Shealsospentthenightwriting movement, 686 women have have been wronged. Can you his eulogy. But at the cemetery followed, 29 of whom were or- imagine how much richer our therewasamechitzah,abarrier, dained in Israel by the Hebrew Jewish traditi6n would be if the separatingherfromherbrother Union College-Jewish Institute Ima Shaloms hd been allowed and the other men attending of Religion. The Conservative to sit on the Sanhedrin? the funeral. movement's rabbinical associa- Ir growing numbers, Jews At Rosie's turn to speak, tion has 307 female rabbis. And throughout the world are seek- the officiating rabbi asked her this month, three remarkable ingtotakethewoUndedfeelings brother to read the eulogy. Orthodox women graduated described by Ima Shalom and "In our tradition, women are from Yeshivat Maharat's pro- turn them into effective action, notallowedtospeakatfunerals," gram for careers as spiritual Tikun olam isn't only needed the rabbi said. leaders in the Orthodox com- in the developing world or in Rosie's brother declined; it munity. This is changing our places of overt oppression, but Was their father's wishes for Jewish community and our in Israel, too. Rosie to read. Still the rabbi practice of Judaism for the bet- Last October on Rosh Ch- refused and suggested that he ter, enriching both. odeshCheshvan, AnatHoffman, readtheeutgy'Rsiecriedfrm But this energy and ritual the leaderofthe IsraelReligious behind the partition, "Are you is missing in the Jewish state. Action Center, the social action goingtosay'mbelovedfather'?" The government of Israel has armoftheReformmovement, as The Israel Religious Action privileged Orthodoxy as the wellthechairwomanofWomen Center took her case to small only legitimate Judaism. How of the Wall, was arrested and claims court and won. But how painfully ironic it is that the treated harshly forthe crime of distressing is it that her claimis onlydemocracyintheworldthat wearing a prayer shawl, a tallit a"smali claim?" embraces legal discrimination andprayingthe Shemaoutloud From the Western Wall, to against the streams of Judaism at the Kotel. rabbinical courts, to the bridal expression of Judaism deemed legitimate by the State of Israel. women's equalitywill be elusive and illusory. God didn't decree the current inequality; men did. Judaism has changed throughout history. So,. too, the State of Israel can change. The time for change is now. Rabbi RickJacobs is thepresi- dent of the Union for Reform Judaism. VIETNAM