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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 23, 2013 q A By Ben Cohen JNS.o.rg One of the oft-repeated criticisms of the movement to boycott Israel is that it portrays the Middle East's only healthy democracy as the ultimate rogue state, ignoring at the same time those authoritarian regimes that violate the most basic human rights on a daily basis. Frankly, that's why I'm pleased to announce that the boycott I'm writing about here, one that is picking up pace, has nothing to do with Israel, the Palestinians, or the Middle East in general. This time, the target is Russia. Under Presi- defitVladimir Putin, Russia has reverted to the halfits of the old Soviet Union, cracking down on internal dissent, backing the world's worst regimes, such as Syria and Iran, and adopting a confrontational stance toward the United States, most recently by granting asylum to Edward Snowden, a fugitive who is regarded by many Americans as a traitor. As a stalwart of what he regards as "tradi- tional" values, Putin has also declared war On homosexuality. In July, Putin signed a bill that makes it illegal for gay couples to adopt Russian-born children. And if you are a het- erosexual couple living in a country where gay marriage is legal, then you too are prohibited from adopting Russian children. There's more. Visitors to Russia who are suspected of being gay, or of supporting the cause of gay equality, can be detained by the police for up to two weeks. Even the mere act of educating children about homosexuality could By Andrew Silow-Carroll rabbinical students who are either married New Jersey Jewish News to or in a relatiol~ship with a non-Jew. HUC is studying the issue, in response to challenges •,An old friend who happens to be both gay from some students and alumni. and 0rthodox once surprised me~y defending Golin thinks the policy should be changed, matrilineal descent--not in terms of Halacha, andthat amovement that claims tobe inclusive the code of Jewish law, but in terms of people of interfaith families and devoted to rabbinical hood. By defining a Jew in unimpeachable autonomy cannot cling to the "red line" of biological terms, he said, we make it so Jews excluding intermarried rabbinical students. have to look at each other as members of a As an "intermarried unaffiliated Jew," Golin people. If you take away biology, then the only asserts that a rabbiwho shared his background way to judge whether someone is Jewish is ac- would make him feel more included. cording to what he or she believes. Thanks to I'mwith Paulwhen he urges Jewish institu- matrilineal descent, a secular Jew in Tel Aviv tions to do a better job at conveying Jewish and a pious hasid in Brooklyn have to deal meaning to Jews of all backgrounds. But he with each other as family, however distant, loses me in arguing that interfaith families Another Orthodox friend surprised me somehow need intermarried rabbinic role even more by writing sympathetically about models in order- to feel comfortable in syna- patrilinealdescent. He understoodthe Halacha gogue. The Reform movement especially has and the sociological benefits of determining gone to great lengths to welcome interfaith Jewishness through the mother, but recalled families--if rabbis and congregants are falling meeting the children of Jewish fathers and short, groups like JOI can help them become non-Jewish mothers who identified deeply even more sensitive and welcoming• But the with Judaism butwere still considered outside "benefits"ofacceptingintermarriedrabbinical the fold, at least by those outside the Reform students will be far outweighed by the costs movement. They were baffled and hurt that a "- in reputation to the movement• "matrilineal" kid who is Jewishly indifferent When seminaries uphold inmarriage as a was considered a member of the tribe, while Jewish ideal, it is not out of parochialism or they--active in synagogue, at easewith Jewish bigotry but because in terms of Jewish expres- texts an6 Y~,ua~,--~ere noL sion, it is, well, ideal. Judaism, like most isms, is That's the crux of the matter whmever mostfullyexpressedinrelationships.Thisisn't we discuss Jewish identity issues, fr~n the tribalism, but common sense. While Judaism conversion wars in Israel to the debates here can be conveyed in interfaith marriages, it's over including interfaith families. On'~ camp a lot harder without the web of relationships defends tradition not just for its own sake and family histories knit by a Jewish-Jewish but as a strategy for ensuring continuity, marriage. instilling people hood, and maintaining the And as an ideal, it should be nonnegotiable distinctiveness oftheJewishpeop|e.Another when ordaining a rabbi. There are degrees in camp urges outreach and flexibility out Jewish law and Jewish communal service for of compassion for individuals from mixed those who want them, but rabbinical ord{na- backgrounds and fears of losing a genera- tion is a declaration that you want to be more tion for whom multicultural identities are than a scholar or "Jewish professional." It increasingly the norm. means you want to represent a chain of Jew- Paul Golin, associate executive direcl~or of ish transmission that goes back to the first Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute, people who held that title, and want to make which aims to create "a more welcoming and. other people part of that cllain. A rabbi can inclusive North American Jewish community, embrace the non-Jewish spouses who are not is in the second camp. He is particularly for ready to be part ofthe chain, especially those intermarried families." He often points to heroes who are raising Jewish children. But I statistics showing a million intermarried don't see how you can be a conveyor of"Jewish Jews in the United States. He has an aversion meaning" without the ability to say, "This is to Jewish "red lines," and insists Jewish insti- so important to me, I made it central to my tutions have a choice: They can either erect life, my career--and my marriage." barriers and lose forever the children of these Paul and his colleagues deserve the commu- intermarriages, or become more-welcoming nity'sthanksforbuildingabridgebetweerrthe and create opportunities for these children to Jewish people and a generation of individuals express their Jewish identity, with new and different identities. But this, .Golin wrote an article about the controver- quite frankly, is a bridge too far. sial question over whether Hebrew Union Col- Andrew Silow-Carroll is Editor-in-Chief of lege, the seminary of the Reform movement," theNewJerseyJewisl~ News. Between columns should change its policy in order to accept you can read his writing at the JustASC blog. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'SINDEPENDENTJEWISHVOICE ISSN 0199-0721 W~mner of 43 Press Awards EWISH NEWS HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid ~t Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. BOx 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: news@°rland°heritage'c°m Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carmo • Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shiplrey • Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein • Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman • Dawn Lucchitti Elaine Schooping • Gil Dombrosky land you with a heavy fine or prison sentence, because you'd be engaging in what the Russian state calls "homosexual propaganda." These ugly measures have rightly sparked outrage in the free world. Some activists, particularly in the gay community, believe the time is now right for a boycott of Rus- sia. As The "Atlantic magazine described it, "from Vancouver to London" gay bars and clubs are dumping Russian vodka. On top of that, prominent celebrities like the American playwright Harvey Fierstein and the British actor Stephen Fry are ad˘ocating a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in the Russian resort of Sochi. How should Jews assess these Russian boycott calls? The question is an important one, because we have beep on the receiving~ end of many boycott campaigns over the last century. The Nazis famously coined the term "Kauft Nicht bei Juden"--"Don't Buy From Jews"--in their campaign to ruin Gerr~any's Jews on the eve of the Holocaust; in 1945, the Arab League initiated a boycott of the Jewish community in the British Mandate of Palestine, which later mushroomed into a boycott of the State of Israel; and in our own time, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has attempted to demonize Israel as the reincarnation of apartheid-era South Africa. Because of these experiences, many Jews understandat~ly feel that we should have no truckwithboycott campaigns anywhere--oth- erwise we risk looking hypocritical, as well as potentially endangering Jewish communities residing in the target state. But I don't entirely share thatview. Boycotts were not invented to target Jews (the word originates from fiineteenth century Ireland, where Charles Boycott, a British landowner, was ostracized by the surrounding community for unfairly treating his tenants), nor have they been restricted to Jews (think of the boycott sovereign state, we can safely deem their mo- tives to be horrendously unjust, not to mention anti-Semitic, tn the Russian case, however, no one is challenging Russia's right to exist. Indeed, doing so would be patently absurd. Instead, the boycott is directed at changing an unjust, discriminatory policy. Changing policy was also the goal of the Montgomery bus boycott, and of the American boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, in protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Given that our sense of justice is2rofoundly offended by Russia's aggressive stance towards the gay community both domestically and • abroad, it is reasonable to assume that the moral case for a boycott is a sound one. Once the discrimination is rescinded, the boycott will follow suit. Wh~t, however, of its effectiveness? Boycotts are fast developing a reputation for achieving only a Sense of worth among those engaged in the boycotting, with little practical impact on the target. Again, look at Israel: while it might be emotionally satisfying for, say, anti-Zionist Jews to declare " My Name," the mate- rial consequences for Israel of their boycott activities are, thankfully, pathetically invisible. That explains why some Russian ga.y rights activists are wisely, in my view--playing down the significance of the current boycott. "Tobe honest, I don't see the point in boy- cotting the Russian vodka," rights advocate NikolaiAlekseev told Gay Star News. "Itwill not impact anyone except the companies involved a little bit. The effect will die out very fast, it will not last forever." In similar vein, Hudson Taylor, the director of a non-profit organization promoting tolerance in sport, told ESPN, "[T] he intent of an Olympic boycott is understood, but the outcome doesn't create the necessary change... We are advocating that people speak out, not sit out." Speaking out is exactly the right strategy. of racially segregated buses in Montgomery, Inasmuch as the boycott calls highlight Rus- Alabama, which brought the civil rights move- ment unprecedented attention). Instead, we should judge boycotts through two considerations. Firstly, is the boycott justi- fied? Secondly, can the boycott be effective? When it comes to Israel, most boycott advocates believe that the Jewish-State has no right to exist; insofar as their actions are directed toward the elimination of Israel as a sia's grotesque violations of the human rights of gay people, they are welcome. But let's not be fooled into thinking that feeling good about ourselves is a substitute for meaningful action. Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Com- mentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications. By Ira Sharkansky organization thatworked with the Ministry of Education to enrich the education of Israel's Living in a Jewish country has its attrac- youth. Rabbi and Mrs. Elon took seriously the tions. One of them is that you can enjoy being commandment to be fruitful and multiply. a Jew without being religious. They have 11 children. Living in a Jewish country also has its The problem in dating the beginning of his problems. One of them is that you cannot story concerns the practice of this charismatic avoid Judaism. Even outspoken Jewish atheists are sur- rounded by stimuli associated with the faith they deny. Virtually every item on the daily news .touches the subject. Either Jews are quarreling about ah issue ~vith religious im- plications-and almost all of the local topics have such implications, such as comments about environmental protection or agree- ments with Palestinians that deal with the Land of Israel--or some distant goy is saying or doing something likely to impact on Israel and its Jews. Jews could use a rabbi with the power of a pope to impose order on them, and to de~ide about the major issues that provoke dispute. But then it wouldn't be Judaism, with its large variety of contentious communities and outspoken individuals. As if we needed aflother reminder of who we are, and what is our religion, the saga of Rabbi Mordechai (Moti) Elon is providing it. It is not clear when his story begins, leaving aside the principal biographical and profes- s ional details. Born into an elite family (his late father was a justice of Israel's Supreme Court, one brother was a Knesset member and government minister, and another brother a judge), study and then teaching at religious schools, eventually heading one of Israel's most prestigious Orthodox yeshiva, a media career that included regular appearances on radio, television, and Torah lessons taught in the presidential residence, and leadership of an rabbi to include hugging and other physical gestures in his counseling of young men. On Wednesday of this week a lower court found hi.~ guilty of indecent acts. Some time ago a rabl~mica} forum had conducted its own iflquiries, and found that Elon had crossed the line into sexual exploitation. What is no[ clear is when these behaviors began. As in the case of other distinguished figures in the realm of religion (Judaism and other faiths) and other fields, many individuals are loath to complain. The lowe.r court accepted the testimony of several individuals whose episodes occurred long enough ago so that they could not be the basis of a conviction, but could be used to bolster a pattern of behavior to be used in considering a specific and more recent charge of wrongdoing. The rabbinical forum that also decided against Rabbi Elon was less constrained than the court by its rules of evidence and statute of limitations. The case featured in Rabbi E10n's guilty verdict occurred in 2005, and produced an indictment only in 2011. The lapse in time to judgment may owe something to Elon's status and the reluctance of individuals and prosecutors to act agairist l~im. Yet Israeli justice is characteristically slow. Former minister Avigdor Lieberman is currently involved in a court action that Sharkansky on page 19A