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August 10, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 10, 2012 PAGE 5h By Piotr Kadlcik WARSAW, Poland (JTA) - Among the events at celebra- tions ;,n Lublin of the Siyum HaShas, or the completion of the Daf Yomi Talmud study cycle, was a session billed as a seminar for "hidden Jews" of Poland. About 30 Jews from Poland took part in the Lublin events last week, joining scores of other Jews who had gathered in this city in eastern Poland from abroad--and thousands who marked the Siyum Ha- Shas elsewhere around the world. It was a great occasion and emblematic of the rebirth of Jewish life in Poland since the fall ofcommunismmore than 20 years ago. But hidden Jews? Where are we hiding? The term was coined by the shavei Israel organ!zation, an Israel-based group that reaches out to "lost Jews" around the world and orga: nized the Lublin seminar. Following the 1989 fall of communism, truly hidden Jews began emerging from the shadows and started to reestablish Jewish life in Poland. I was one of them, and I well remember those difficult and uncertain times. But the term scarcely charac- terizes the Jewish experience in Poland today. Shavei Israel's Daf Yomi seminar was just one of dozens--maybe even hun- dreds--of Jewish seminars, classes, courses, lectures, workshops, conferences, festivals, study groups, sum- mer camp sessions and other events heldin Poland throughout the year. What's more, the Siyum HaShas events in "Lublin took place in the historic Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva, whose founder, Rabbi Meir Shapiro, established DafYomi more than 80 years ago. For decades after the Holo- caust the building was used by Lublin's Medical Academy, but our Jewish community received the building back in 2003. We restored it and rebuilt a synagogue and mik- v~h there that were dedicated in 2007. The building now stands proudly as the focal point of a tiny but vibrant Jewish community in Lublin. We did this by ourselves, funding it with our own re, sources--obtained through property restitution--with- out any financial assistance from abroad. We have been striving to rebuild Jewish life inPoland for more than 20 years; I s 'hidden, would say we have accom- plished a lot. Of course, we have not done it alone. I have tremendous respect and gratitude for organiza- tions such as 'the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, the American Jewish Joint Distri- bution Committee and World Jewish Relief, which helped us so much when help was needed the most. I likewise honor the Taube Founda- tion and individuals 'such as the philanthropist Sigmund Rolat, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, who are making such valuable contributions today. Shavei Israel's help in bringing rabbis to Poland also has been very important. Butweare not in hiding; no way. We are visible, we are con- fident, we are part of society. I call on outside orga nizations to reflect the reality of Polish Jewish life in their materials step, to recognize that they and statements, are Jewish--if they want Today, indeed, we have to--and try to become a a whole new generation of part of Jewish society. It can Polish Jews. They are adults be difficult, for them and or young adults who have - for us, to help them make a grown up in Jewish environ: ments, participated in Jewish children's or youth camps, studied in Jewish schools or at university"Jewish studies courses, interactedwith Jews around the globe. They are Jews like my own children, for whom being Jewish is neither a traumatic experience nor a special reason for pride. They are Jews--and that's it. I am aware, of course, that somewhere in Poland there may be thousands of people of Jewish origin, still truly hid- den Jews. But they are not the ones who would have attended a Daf Yomi Lublin seminar. They need to make a first conscious choice. Still, something seems to "be working. Ten years ago; after the national census, -some 1,100 people acknowl- edged that they are a part of the Jewish national minority in Poland. In the most recent census, just completed, the result was more than 7,000. We are well aware that Jew- ish life in Poland will never approach the richness and complexity of the era before the Shoah when rnore than 3 million Jews lived here. But hidden Jews? Not us! Piotr Kadlcik is president of the Jewish Community of Warsaw and the Union of Jew- ish Communities in Poland. By Raleb Majadele JERUSALEM (JTA)-- Among the many strengths of Israel is its strong democratic tradition. Maintaining this tradition, however, seems to be more of a challenge with every passing year. Trends among some po- litical parties inspired by nondemocratic instincts threaten Israel's most es- sential foundation. This fragile situation is made even less stable by the less than statesmanlike behavior of some Israeli leaders. This truth was revealed in all of its starkness last month when I, like other Israelis, discovered that our leaders had played yet another cynical game for political gain. On May 8, instead of the kickoff for new elections that had been approved the previous day By Faina Kirshenbaum JERUSALEM (JTA)---As an immigrant to Israel, a woman and a member of the Knesset, I must juggle many sensitivi- ties and responsibilities. I do this with great honor and try to be responsive to competing demands and ideals. Some- times this means that I have to examine fundamental beliefs. When I made aliyah in 1973 from the former Soviet Union, I was of the firm opinion that Jews everywhere should come and live in Israel. But over the years, with my own personal and political devel- opment, I have come to see things differently. This was brought home to me in an even more persuasive way fol- lowing a weeklong visit to the American Jewish community earlier this year as part of the Ruderman Fellows Program for members of the Knesset sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation. Together with five col- leagues from across the Israeli political spectrum, we engaged with American Jewish leaders and activ- ists who opened our eyes to by the Knesset, a unity gov- ernment was formed behind closed doors and out of site of the public and its elected Knesset representatives. True, I was the sole mem- ber of Knesset who opposed the timing of what would have been the new election date, and I did so because of the harsh insensitivity to the Arab population, which I represent as an Arab-Israeli member of Knesset. The election was schectuled for just two short weeks after the conclusion of Ramadan, the Muslim holiday that pre- cludes political activity, thus putting Arab politicians at a terrible disadvantage. I was shocked and sad- dened by the blatant hypoc- risy of this clandestine power grab and the utter disregard for the norms of the political process. Perhaps my reac- American Jewish thinking and priorities. Israel needs a strong Di- aspora so that Jews around the world can continue to influence the governments of the countries they live in and U.N. decisions. I recently came back from a visit to Ukraine and I saw the important role played a Jewish mayor there in relations between Ukraine and Israel. I appreciate the necessity of a strong Jewish life beyond the borders of the Jewish state, but I also rec- ognize the great challenges that Diaspora existence brings with it. Among the most difficult questions is the very future of those Jewish communities-- their ability to withstand as- sim!lation and intermarriage; the strength to maintain the Jewish identity of the next generation. Perhaps the strict legal standards that we apply in Israel regarding who is a Jew are problematic and serve to create a wider gap between Israel and the Diaspora. Out of pain and concern, I believe we must strive not to become the enemy, not to alienate or reject the rainbow of Jews who today tion was in part a result of a recent visit to the United States, where I witnessed the U.S. presidential election playing out in a demonstra- tion of democracy that is particularly vibrant, -robust and energetic--quite unlike the reality here in Israel. Alongwith four other mem- bers of the Knesset, I visited the U.S. as a member of the Ruderman Fellows delegation, sponsored by the Ruderman Family Foundation, to pro- mote greater understand- ing among Israel and the American Jewish community. Throughout many meetings in Boston and New York City that included awide spectrum of Jewish community and public leaders, I was deeply impressed by the dynamics of an American democracy in which the diversity of opinion and culture is so embraced. make up our multicultural Jewish world. In New York and Boston, Ruderman Fellows met many different streams--Reform, Conservative and so on, and learned about the growing phenomenon of noia-tradi- tional approaches to Judaism. This was not easy. For me and many others in Israel, it is not enough that the non-Jewish mother comes to synagogue on Saturday before taking her children to church on Sunday. It is clear to me that years down the line these same children will only go to church and not to synagogue, and they will not continue to be Jewish. I realize that this is a sensi- .tive topic reflecting a reality of Diaspora Jewish life in the 21st century. But to my great dismay, I believe that sooner or laterwe will lose a large part of this community. Therefore it is of the greatest impor- tance, before it is too late, that we in Israel, that Reform and Conservative rabbis and all other leaders of the Jewish world, work hard to embrace these families and help them sustain Jewish identification What also was instilled in me is that a primary component of American strength is the unrelenting self-examination and self- criticism to which it subjects itself. America is not afraid to confront its missteps and imperfections. My visit to the United States was for me, an Arab citizen of Israel, a profound lesson in democracy. Democratic values are deeply rooted in American society, as well as in its Constitution, which guarantees the equal rights of minorities as a fundamental precept of American law. Among American Jews I discovered a diverse and principled community repre- senting a wealth of political opinions, religious streams and worldviews. I was moved by the passion and commit- ment evoked through points and affiliation to turn as many as possible into Jews. Alongwith the tremendous religious diversity, I also found many.differences of opinion on Israel among American Jews. I was especially struck by a sense of hostility that we found in the Boston com- munity. At some points I even thought, "What use is a Diaspora that thinks this way about Israel?" Of course, the very purpose of the Ruderman program was to introduce Israeli legislators to the variety of opinien and activity that characterizes the American Jewish community, to get us to understand what this community is think- ing even if that thinking is anathema to our own. But I know that whatever their views, investing in dialogue with them is a critical Jewish mission. We must establish a shared platform for discourse and exchange because only in dialogue can the Jewishworld find the commonality of spirit and i:ommitment to ensure our joint future. Faina Kirshenbaum is a Knesset member from the Y israel Beitenu party. of both essential agreement and unbridled disagreement on political, social and stra- tegic issues affecting hot only the community but support for ISrael as well. But here in Israel we are wit- nessing a marked deteriora- tion ofdemocraticvalues; they are perhaps at their lowest point ever. This deterioration is related not only to the status of minority rights, including the Arab minority, but also to the rule of law, especi.aUy in the West Bank, and the fervent anti-democratic legislation. It is not easy to watch the fun- damental tools of democracy being used to upend it. We in Israel have much to learn from the American Jewish community in how to contend with our differences within a safe and respect- ful atmosphere. Stronger democracy is the cure to a weakening of unity within Israel--and a weakening of support for Israel from out- side our country. We need to understand that there is a widening fissure in the political and cultural views with regard to Israel be- tween those held by the young LOOK AT and by the older generation of American Jews. We cannot ignore the growing trend of cautious and less certain sup- port of the Israeli government by young American Jews. At the same time, I would be remiss not to note my surprise at the lack of knowledge that many in the Jewish commu- nity displayed concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is unfortunate that this influ- ential community has not yet more widely internalized the change that has taken place among Palestinians and Arabs in general, best demonstrated by the Arab Peace Initiative that has been adopted more than once by the Arab League and the Palestinians. For sure, democracy in America is imperfect--and it has taken more than two centuries for it to achieve this level of imperfection. But the U.S. no doubt is a beacon and example of how to build and hold on to representative government. My Israel has much to learn. Raleb Majadele, a Muslim and deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, is a member of the Labor Party. THE UPBEAT LIFE COACH