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July 27, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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July 27, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 27, 2012 PAGE 5A By Douglas Kandl NEWYORK (JTA)--A Con- servative Jew, I am a third- generation member of Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford, N.J was very ac- tive in the movement's United Synagogue Youth and helped create a presence for Koach, the movement's college pro- gram, at my college, Pace Uni- versity. My grandparents and parents have instilled strong Jewish values in me, and I hope to see the Conservative movement thrive for many generations to come. I am worried, however, about the Conservative move- ment's commitment to my age cohort. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism an- nounced in early June that it would be putting Koach on hiatus for the indefinite fu- ture. Within hours, students from across North America, including myself, formed the Save Koach initiative. Thanks to the efforts of many, USCJ gave Koach a reprieve, allocat- ing it $100,000 and giving the program until Dec. 31 to raise an additional $130,000. Koach is essential to the future of Conservative Juda- ism. While a great deal of time, money and effort is consistently committed to pre-college programs includ- ing Solomon Schechter day schools, Ramah camps and USY, young Jews by them- selves cannot make the leap from being Conservative Jew- ish high school students to becoming committed Conser- vative Jewish adults. If we do not provide an infrastructure of involvement for Conserva- tive college students, we run the risk of losing a generation of Conservative Jewish mem- bers and leaders. Sustaining and eventually increasing funding for Koach will allow the Conservative movement to survive and flourish for generations to come. Many have asked, "Where do we go from here?" Save Koach has been devis- ing fundraising strategies and improvements to the operat- ing model. In the coming weeks, we plan to announce national fundraising initia- Thr/ve on page 18A By Jeff Rubin WASHINGTON (JTA)--~- More than one in threeAmeri- cans have explored their family trees according to a 2011 "60 Minutes/Vanity Fair" poll. Jews, who tend to skew the curve when it comes to all things nerdy, must certainly be among the greatest shakers of genealogical boughs and branches. How many of us have spent nights pouring over the online records from Ellis Island or the U.S. Census Bureau? And yet, some of the great- est sources" of information about our families and our community lie abandoned and vulnerable in the basements and storerooms of our com- munal institutions. As Jewish groups---from synagogues to international organizations-- work to satisfy today's needs and strengthen the future, preserving records of the past often falls by the wayside. We have seen historical records treated shabbily by our communal institutions. That is why the recent decision by B'nai B'rith International to turn over its remarkable his- torical records to the Ameri- can Jewish Archives is such a unique example--and a deep blessing--to the community as a whole. With a record of achieve- ment dating back to 1843 and an archive written mainly in English, B'nai B'rith's material promises to give unique access to information locked away for too many years. The collection is estimated to comprise more than 1 million documents and takes up 800 linear feet of storage space. During its heyday, B'nai B'rith's empire of lodges and members stretched from Iraq to Sudan, Poland to Algeria, Argentina to Canada, and most countries in between. Its members fought for the North and the South during the Civil War, and for both sides of World War I. B'nai Birth lodges sprung up wherever a Jewish peddler plied his trade and provided some of the first self-help societies in long- forgotten shtetls and hamlets. The first B'nai B'rith group on the West Coast was formed in San Francisco in 1855- before a train or telegraph linked the continent, and before the Panama Canal cut the sea journey in half. With a history this deep and wide, there is no telling the treasures these record~ may hold for individuals in search of fam- ily information or hiStorians seeking important nuggets. As a B'nai B'rith staff mem- ber for a decade, I had the pleasure of spending hours in the archives before they were packed up and stored when the organization sold- its Washington headquarters building in 2002. I worked with the organi- zation's part-time archivist, Hannah Sinauer, of blessed memory, who lavished loving care on the many volumes of "District Grand Lodge". and "Constitution Grand Lodge" reports in the collection. Han- nah's connection to the mate- rial was deeply personal: Her father had been a B'nai B'rith leader in Germany before the family fled the Nazis. Browsing through a book with her one day, she showed me her father's name in the listing of B'nai B'rith members who proudly served the kaiser during the Great War. Today, finally, after 10 years in storage, the records will be preserved and properly catalogued by a world-class library. One hopes they will be digitized and put online for universal access. B'nai B'rith, which led the community in creating such enduring institutions as the Anti-Defamation League, Hillel and the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, again has provided an example for other groups small and large. As others contemplate the disposition of their records, they should consider the fact that tffese archives do not belong to one .organization or era: They belong to all of us who have been touched by Jewish history. They are our family records. Storing them properly, in an environment that will preserve them for future generations, not only pays respect to our forebears, but it also enables future generations to learn from our successes and failures. Jewish institutions at all levels must demonstrate the will and the ability to preserve our records with respect. They should set aside the human and financial resources to maintain their most important archives and to properly dispose of the rest. They should keep their documents in an environment that ensures their survival, at a minimum. Even better, it should be an environment that gives access to respon- sible researchers. They should consider lending or donating these materials to local and national historical societies that have the ability to store and display them. As a community, we should support institutions like the American Jewish Archives, ones devoted to preserving and disseminating our historical records. We ofter criticize for- eign governments for failing to preserve Jewish historical sites and artifacts. How can we condemn others when we ourselves often fail to preserve the ;ecords in our own care? (Jeff Rubin is communica- tions director for a research institution in Washington, D.C.) By Peter Dreier LOS ANGELES (JTA)-- When it comes to the enter- tainment industry, Jewish participation is legendary. But much less emphasized is the remarkable impact that Jews have had on social reform and activism. The depth of those contributions must be re-examined, particularly at a time when some observers ponder the long-termviability of American Jewish life. While only 3.6 percent of the nation's population in the early 20th century--and less than 2 percent today--Jews have played and continue to play a disproportionately large role in the key social justice movements of the last and the present century. In 1900, you were a danger- ous dreamer to call for things such as women's suffrage, laws protecting the environment and consumers, an end to lynching, the rights of work- ers, a progressive income tax, old-age insurance and more. Today such ideas are taken for granted. The radical ideas of one generation have become the common sense of the next. Jews were among leaders and rank-and-file activists in all the great movements-- labor, civil rights and civil liberties, feminism, environ- mentalism, gay rights and the crusade against militarism. They have more than done their part in making America a more humane, democratic and inclusive country. Take Rose Schneiderman, a fiery socialist union orga- nizer. She was on the front lines of the Progressive Era battles against slums and sweatshops. So were settle- ment house pioneer Lillian Wald, Rabbi Stephen Wise and lawyer Louis Brandeis (later a Supreme Court justice), whose writings and legal activism helped tame the growing power of corporate monopolies. Victor Berger, an Austrian immigrant and in 1910 the country's first,Social- ist congressman, introduced the first bill to provide old-age pensions. Eventually the idea was adopted in 1935 when President Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security. Jewish social activism helped spearhead the early civil rights movement as well. In 1909, Joel Spingarn was a founder and then long-term president of the NAACP. Julius Rosenwald of Sears & Roebuck was a pioneer in the new field of progressive philanthropy. He endowed Jane Addam ' Hull House and Booker T. Washington's Tuskegee Insti- tute, funded more than 5,000 schools forAfricanAmericans in the rural South, and sup- ported the Highlander Folk School, a Tennessee-based training center for labor and civil rights activists. During the Great Depres- sion of the 1930s, labor leaders Sidney Hillman, David Dubin- sky and Ralph Helstein led battles for workers' rights and economic reform, while com- posers Yip Harburg ("Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Over the Rainbow") and Aaron Copland ("Fanfare for the Common Man"), artist Ben Shahn and playwright Clifford Odets ("Waiting for Lefty") gave shape to radical ideas that caught the public's imagination. During the 1960s, A1- lard Lowenstein, along with African-American organiz- er Bob Moses, created the Freedom Summer project, which brought more than 1,000 college students to the South to register black vot- ers. About half of the white volunteers were Jews. Many of them--including Barney Frank, Heather Booth and Vivian Rothstein--pursued careers in activism and reform that have lasted into the 21st century. Lowenstein, along with Rabbi AI)raham Joshua He- schel, journalist I.F. Stone, critic Noam Chomsky and other Jews, gave voice to the rising tide of anti-Vietnam War sentiment. Jews consti- tuted at least one-third of the early leaders of Students for a Democratic Society, the leading campus anti-war organization. When it came to modern feminism, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin were at the forefront. Likewise with gay rights, where San Fran- cisco activist Harvey Milk, poet, Alan Ginsberg, scientist Frank Kameny and writer Larry Kramer helped catalyze the movement in the 1970s, a tradition continued today by playwright Tony Kushner. Today, a new generation of Jewish activists and think- ers, few of them well-known, is extending this tradition. Business social activists Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry's) and George Soros are amongthose who are continuing the social justice philanthropy tradition started by Rosenwald and Bos- ton merchant Edward Filene in the early 1900s. A 1970 Time cover story called scientist Barry Com- moner the "Paul Revere of as City Council memberspolitical campaigns--to move ecology." Jews in the arts JackieGoldberg(LosAngeles) Americainamoreprogressive and the academy--including and Brad Lander (New York); direction. Like the Passover playwright Arthur Miller, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ver- story, it is important to re- filmmakersSidneyLumetand mont) and the late Sen. Paul mind ourselves that people Stanley Kramer, TVproducer Wellstone (Minnesota); and can overcome great obstacles- Norman Lear, folksingers Congress members Barneyand achieve great things if BobDylanandPhilOchs, writ- Frank (Massachusetts), Steve they have a vision and build ersGracePaley, Adrienne Rich Cohen(Tennessee),BobFilner movements that challenge and Studs Terkel, and social (California), Henry Waxman the conventional ideas of critics Paul Goodman, How- (California), Jerrold Nadler their day. ard Zinn, Frances Fox Piven (New York), Jared Polis (Colo- Peter Dreier is a professor and Jonathan Kozol--gave rado),andJan Schakowsky (II- ofpolitics andchair of the Ur- voice to movements ofdissent, linois), many of whom started ban & EnvironmentalPolicy Community organizer their careers as grass-roots Department at Occidental MadelineJanis, founderofthe activists. College. His new book, "The LosAngelesAllianceforaNew Since the early 1900s, 100GreatestAmericansofthe Economy, helpedcatalyzethe these Jewish reformers joined 20th Century:ASocial Justice wave of local "living wage" others--on picket lines and HaU of Fame," was published laws (now in nearly 200 cities) stages, and in newsrooms and recently by Nation Books. - and has built bridges between enwronmental ac- labor and ' tivists through campaigns to clean up the nation's polluting ['~ ] ports. Likewise, SEIU union IRANIAN organizer Stephen Lerner led the most successful union organizing drive of the past two decades--the Justice for Janitors campaign among low-wage immigr ntworkers. He also has forged links be- tween the Occupy Wall Street movement and community and labor activists. Jews also are among today's most influential progres- sive "opinion-shapers. They include writer Naomi Klein, columnists Paul Krugman of The New York Times, and Ezra Klein and Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post, Yale po- litical scientist Jacob Hacker, "Democracy Now" host Amy Goodman, and "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart. Eli Pariser, an early leader of MoveOn. Org, pioneered the use of the Internet to foster political activism. And let's not forget recent progressive politicians such