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August 19, 2011

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 19, 2011 Taking security seriously is a community concern By Jerry Silverman NEWYORK (JTA)--We live in an unpredict- able w6rld. As Americans, we do our best to cope with threats of terrorism on a daily basis, and we put our faith into the intelligence com- munity, trusting that those who are tasked with keeping us safe are vigilant in their quest. We need only look at recent events, like the death of Osama bin Laden or the thwarting of two bombs aimed at New York Citysyna- gogues, to realize that the men and women in uniform--and others not in uniform--are constantly going above and beyond to watch over us and keep terrorism at bay. But in the American Jewish community, that is not always enough. Throughout his- tory, our Jewish community centers, schools and places of worship have been the targets of violent extremism, and even with the watchful eye of our government there is no sign of that abating. In fact, just days after bin Laden's kill- ing, al-Qaeda in Yemen called for retaliatory attacks against Jewish targets. In today's security atmosphere, we in the Jewish community must heighten our aware- ness and be increasingly alert at all times. The Why recognizing the Bergson Group matters By Rafael Medoff of the Bergson Group's establishment, Yad funded by The Jewish Federations, to address the threat of terrorism together because of our role connecting Jewish communities and organizations across the country. It was the first time that the governmental security agency teamed up with a faith- based community to advance its "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign. The program, which engages the public in iden- tifying and reporting indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats, includes customized posters, announcements and alerts for the U.S. WASHINGTON (JTA)--After many decades of being excluded from most history books and Holocaust museums, the 1940s' rescue activ- ists known as the Bergson Group are finally receiving the recognition they deserve. That's important to ensure historical accuracy, to promote Jewish unity and, most of all, to help inspire a new generation of activists. As an Aug. 7 feature story in The New York Times noted, the Bergsonites"shookAmerica" with their hundreds of newspaper advertise- ments, rallies and lobbying on Capitol Hill for U.S. action to rescue Jews from the Nazis. The group's leader, Peter Bergson (real name: Hillel Kook) called himself a "nuisance dip- lomat," and his activities indeed were quite a nuisance to the Roosevelt administration, which claimed that the rescue of European Jews was impossible. Many mainstream Jewish leaders likewise were uncomfortablewith the Bergson rescue campaign. They were afraid that loud Jew- ish activism might provoke anti-Semitism. Some Jewish leaders were worried, too, that the media-savvY Bergson was stealing the DepartmentofHomelandSecurityapproached Jewish community. The Jewish Federations of North Americaand To kick off the joint initiative, leaders from the Secure Community Network, an initiative nearlY every major U.S. Jewish organization were on hand when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the announcement in the historic Roosevelt Room of thi White.House, just steps away from the Oval Office. This universal cooperation will be the key to the program's success because our security will require the whole community's involvement. Vashem in Jerusalem (togetherwith The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies) co-hosted its first symposium on the activists. Another factor contributed to the changing attitudes toward Bergson: the legitimization of Jewish activism. The Bergson tactics that some Jewish leaders deplored in the 1940s were adopted by the mainstream Soviet Jewry protest movement of the 1960s and 1970s. When the Bergsonites.organized a march by 400 rabbis to the White House in 1943, it was considered radical. Today, Jewish rallies in the nation's capital--whether for Israel or Darfur--are commonplace. Why is it important that the change has finally come? First, setting the record straight is vitally important as a matter of principle. Jews take history seriously; omission of the Bergsonites did the historical record a terrible disservice. Second, correcting the omission can play a healing role in the Jewish community. Recog- nition of the Bergson Group helps put to rest the bitterquarrels of yesteryear. By facing up to its past, American Jewry can learn from the tragedies caused by the disunity of the limelight. Holocaust years. ;pspit.thg!r opponents, the erggBites .... Third, some of the specific action s of the sucCedd]n rn'obiliziig eiofigh congressi6rial' ': Befgs0nites are surprisingly relevant all tfieSe and public pressure on President Rooseveitl years later. Darfur activists seeking the arrest of indicted Sudanese President Omar Bashir might find useful ideas=in Bergson's successful 1945 effort to shame the State Department into agreeing to prosecute all Nazi war criminals. Governments today that are reluctant to shel- ter refugees might ieri something from the Bergson campaign for temporary havens for Jews fleeing Hitler. Jewish political activists in Washington can learn a great deal from the activities of the Bergson Group, which was arguably the first 'Jewish lobby' in the nation's capital. Most of all, recognizing the activists of the Holocaust era is important because the Bergson story offers a powerful lesson for our time about the need to respond actively to oppression. The ultimate purpose of studying the Holocaust is not merely to learn about the past, but also to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. We live in an era whengenocide and threats of genocide are all too real. The Bergson Group and others who promoted rescue in those days can serve as moral r01e models to. ensure that this generation does not stand idly by. Rafael Medoff,, the director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, is editor of the new book "Millions of Jews to Rescue: A Bergson Group Leader's Account of the Campaign to Save Jews From the Ho- locaust," by Samuel Merlin. to help bring abouf the belated creation of a new US. government agency, the War Refu- gee B6ard, inearly 1944' During the final 15 months of World War II, the board played a key role in rescuing about 200,000 Jews from the Nazis, Bitterness over Bergson's provocative tactics lingered long afterward, however, which may partly explain why for many years, most nar- ratives of the Holocaust omitted Bergson. It didn't help that the Bergson Group dissolved itself in 1948 Bergson quipped that itwas the 0nly Jewish organization to ever voluntarily go out of business--meaning that Bergson alumni weren't well positioned to ensure their story was accessible to historians or the general public. But times changed. In the 1970s and 1980s, a new generation of historians, led by profes- sors David S. Wyman and Monty Penkower, began writing about the Bergson Group. More recently, an off-Broadway play called "The Accomplices" and several film documentaries have brought the story towhole new audiences. The U.S. Holocaust MemorialMuseum recently added Bergson materials to its permanent ex- hibit, as did the newly expanded and re6pened Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. And this summer, on the 70th anniversary THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. "   CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE   ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 40 Press Awards Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Stam Lyn Davidson Mike Etzkin HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly fo $37.95 per year to Florida ad- Society Editor Bookkeep'mg 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 Terri Fine Ed Ziegler 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: Loft Apple Elaine Schooping Gil Dombrosky Napolitano spent nearly an hour detailing the plans to promote security within the Jewish community. The biggest take-away from.the meeting is that communication is the first line of defense when it comes to our security. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks and reflect on the fifth anniversary of the Seattle Jewish Federation shootings, we mourn those who have fallen victim to horrific acts of terrorism. Despite our best efforts to counter those who wish us harm, it is nearly impossible to ensure stability in a world that is constantly evolving. Threats to our safety remain elevated, and as a people we must stay vested in our own well-being. If we empower ourselves with the knowledge necessary to keep our communities safe, we can all play a role in fighting terrorism and creatinga more secure environment across the American Jewish community. Jerry Silverman is the president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America. In Crown Heights, telling it like it wasn't By Art L. Goldman New York Jewish Week NEW YORK Twenty years ago this week, on the night of Aug. 19, 1991--the night that Gavin Cato and Yankel Rosenbaum were killed--my editor called me at home to tell me that riots had broken out on the streets of Crown Heights. "We're covered for tonight, but I want you to start your day there tomorrow," he said. Over the next three days, working 12-hour shifts and only going home to sleep, I saw and heard many terrible things in the Brooklyn neighborhood. I saw police cars set on fire, stores being looted and people bloodied by billy clubs, rocks and bottles. One woman told me that she barricaded herself in her apartment and put the mattresses on the windows so her children would not be hurt by flying glass. over those three days I also saw journalism go terribly wrong. The city's newspapers, so dedicated to telling both sides of the story in the name of objectivity and balance, often missed what was really going on. Journalists initially framed the story as a "racial" conflict and failed to see the anti-Semitism inherent inith:e riots. : : : As the 20th- anniversai'y of the riots ap- proaches, I find myself re-examining my own role in the coverage and trying to extract some lessons for myself and my profession. At the time, I was a religion writer at The New York Times and was well connected in the Lubavitch community, the predominant Jewish group in Crown Heights. I was one of probably a dozen Times reporters and photog- raphers on the streets over the course of the riots. We were a diverse group, representing many religions and racial backgrounds. My job was to file memos to the main rewrite reporters back in the Times office in Manhattan about what I saw and heard. We had no laptops or cell phones in those days, so the other re- porters and I went to payphones and dictated our memos to awaiting band of stenographers in the home office. The photographers handed their film off to couriers on motorcycles who took the film to the Times. Yet when I picked up the paper, the article I readwas not the story I had reported. I saw headlines that described the riots in terms solely of race. "Two Deaths Ignite Racial Clash in Tense Brooklyn Neighborhood," the Times headline said. And, worse, I read an opening paragraph,- what journalists call a "lead," that was simply untrue: "Hasidim and blacks clashed .in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn through the day and into the night Yesterday. '' In all my reporting during the riots I never saw--or heard of anyviolence by Jews against blacks. But the Times was dedicated to this version of events: blacks and Jews clashing amid racial tensions. To show Jewish culpability in the riots, the paper even ran a picture--laughable even at the time--of a Chasidic man brandishing an open umbrella before a police officer in riot gear. The caption read: "A police officer scuffling with a Hasidic man yesterday on President Street." I was outraged but I held my tongue. I was a loyal Times employee and deferred to my editors. I figured that other reporters on the streets were witnessing parts of the story I was not seeing. But then I reached my breaking point. On Aug. 21, as I stood in a group of Chasidic men in front of the Lubavitch headquarters, a group of demonsti'ators were coming down Eastern Parkway. "Heft Hitler," they chanted. "Death to the Jews." Police in riot gear stood nearby but did nothing. Suddenly rocks and bottles started to fly toward us and a Chasidic man just a few feet away from me was hit in the throat and fell to the ground. Some ran to help the injured man but most of us ran for cover. I ranfor a payphone and, my hands shaking with rage, dialed my editor. I spoke in a way that I never had before or since when talking to a boss. "You don't know what's happening here!" I yelled. "I am on the streets getting attacked. Someone nex't to me just got hit. I am writ -: ing mem6s nd what comes out in the paper? 'Hasidim and blacks clashed'? That's not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You've got this story all wrong. All wrong." I didn't blame the rewrite reporter I blamed the editors. It was clear that they had settled on a "frame" for the story. The way they saw it, there were two narratives here: the white narrative and the black narrative. And both had equal weight. After my outburst things got a little better. The next day's report began like this: "Black youths hurling rocks and bottles scuffled with the police in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn last night, even as Mayor David N. Dinkins tried to personally calm the racially troubled neighborhood after two nights of violence." But the Times still had trouble changing its frame. Perhaps most troubling was an article written in the midst of the rioting under this headline: "Amid Distrust in Brooklyn: Boy and Scholar Fall Victim." The article compared the life of Gavin Cato, the 7-year-old boy killed in the car accident that spurred the riots, and the life of Yankel Rosenbaum, 29, who was stabbed to death later that night. It recycled every newspaper cliche and was an insult to the memory of both victims, but again, it fit the frame. "They did not know each other," the article said. "They had no reason to know .... They died unaware .... " In the eyes of the Times, the deaths were morally equivalent and had equal weight. The Times editorial page followed suit. "The violence following an auto accident in Crown Heights reminds all New Yorkers that the city's race relations remains dangerously strained," the editorial said. It concluded by praising Dinkins, giving the mayor credit"for a hard night's work" and doing "the job that New Yorkers elected him to do." The one who first broke the frame and spoke the truth was the fearless poet of the New York newspaper business in those days, Jimmy Breslin, then a columnist for Newsday. He was one of numerous reporters, photog- raphers and television journalists who were beaten or otherwise injured during the riots. In Breslin's case he was dragged fron4 a taxi by Crown Heights on page 23A