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September 3, 2004     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 3, 2004
 

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SEPTEMBER 3, 2004 PA~E 27 ff i lie.man YORK (JTA)--It was nothing communal more than a year of Jew- it was the Passion of the Jews demon- of passion has come American eve of the corn- anniversary in Israel, where to live under of Arab violence, Jews again the targets Jews in relatively Year. ableto ats ;ewhere, while and organi- struggled to s: saving and preserving ing publication of Jewish Popula- in September Painted a por- ' that was stagnant, aging less obser- showed they were than ever. Was on national year's Demo- race. ,ore selected Sen. ), ,as his run- 2000, the move as a breakthrough l Jews and a sign had made of American 2003, when Lieber- the move discussion. partly because Candidacy had but also because first foray [y felt it was lty wore off," profes- at Hebrew versity California. "He for who candidate. There irrelevance of Jewish." In wasn't the candidate roots or ties. grand- ish, and former eanis Jew, can recite blessings in a graduate ,'s medi- Demo- Sen. John had two and has converted to than any group, these rep - erican a traditional of inter- a non-Jew with "Suddenly, having Jewish ancestry is something that is an asset rather than a liability, something people take pride in," said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of Ameri- can Jewish history at Brandeis University. "On the other hand, there's the disturbing fear that Judaism will be part of the past of American Jews rather than their future. It's ancestry rather than reality." Population surveys this year of American Jewish life bore out that notion, demonstrat- ing fiat growth or declining numbers. And while the number of Jews marrying out of the faith held steady or declined slightly compared to a decade ago, this year it seemed that the assimilation of Juda- ism and Jewish culture into mainstream America had accelerated. Madonnagave herself a Jew- ish name, stopped performing on Friday nights and began incorporating tefillin into her concerts. Actor Ashton Kutcher said he was inspired to wear head coverings by yarmulke-wear- ing Jews. And the NBC TV network built an entire show, "Average Joe:Adam Returns," around a nice Jewish boy from New York searching for his soul mate. Yet Jewish spiritual and communal officials had a harder time stirring passion among Jews. Long before the theatrical release of "The Passion of the Christ," the national direc- tor of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, went on the offensive, hop- ing to stir passions against Mel Gibson's controversial film about the crucifixion of Jesus. Foxman argued that the film blamed Jews for Jesus' killing, and that the modern-day passion play would fuel anti-Semitism. Jewish opinion was divided on Foxman's offensive, with some Jews blasting him for making a mountain out of a molehill and creating an im- age of Jews as whiners, and others echoing Foxman's warning that the movie's falsehoods could inspire at- tacks against Jews. As it happened, the movie came and went without any palpable effect on Jews other than a flurry of interfaith meetings, lectures and dis- cussions of Catholic-Jewish ties and history. If "The Passion" did not ig- nite Jewish passion, European anti-Semitism continued to garner the attention of many American Jews. Concerns about anti- Semitism across the Atlantic galvanized many Jewish organizational officials, spurred several government- level conferences and caused considerable consternation among Jews on the grass- roots level. But even more than attacks on Jews in Europe, American Jews were roused to action by attacks against the Jewish state---both in the form of terrorism and international condemnation. Though the sense of panic and anger that marked the American Jewish response to the early years of the Palestinian intifada subsided as Israel had greater success in staunching Palestinian terrorism, American Jewish passion on the issue did not wane. American Jews took to the airwaves, campuses and airplanes to defend Israel and its policies, particularly the construction of the West Bank security barrier. On U.S. campuses, new pro-Israel groups helped push Jewish students to take the of- fensive in the public relations battle for the Jewish state. Alan Dershowitz wrote a high-profile book, "The Case for Israel," and went on radio, TV and the lecture circuit to outline his defense of the Jewish state. Hillel, The Jewish Agency for Israel and theAmerican Israel PublicAf- fairs Committee were joined by newer groups like the Israel on Campus Coalition, Stand With Us and The Israel Project to help rally Jews to the Zionist cause on and off campus. With all this activism came the gradual return of American Jews to the Jewish state--not as immigrants, but as visitors. The number of American Jewish visitors to Israel in 2003--some 221,000--was an all-time record, according to Israeli tourism officials. Things showed no sign of slowing down in 2004. Israeli hotels reached nearly 100 per- cent occupancy for Passover, Birthright Israel brought 8,000 American Jews to the Jewish state last winter and reported record numbers for trips this summer, and flights to Israel for Sukkot were booked months ahead of the High Holiday season. In Washington, Israel ad- vocates helped keep the Bush administration solidly behind the Jewish state. Most Jews applauded Bush's decision in April to publicly oppose a "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees, embrace Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, and recognize some Israeli claims to West Bank land. A few Jewish groups argued that it would be best for Israel if the Bush administration forced Sharon back to the negotiating table. Ameri- cans for Peace Now sought a reduction in $3 billion in U.S. loan guarantees as a penalty for Israel's spending on settlement construction; the administration eventually reduced the year's guarantees by about $290 million, a figure Peace Now said was too low. When billionaire financier George Soros, a Hungarian- born American Jew, suggested last November in remarks first reported by JTA that Sharon's policies had caused anti- Semitism to rise worldwide, the comments set off a heated debate among Jews over what constituted legitimate criti- cism of the Jewish state. Despite the internaldebate, American Jews continued to resist strong criticism of Israel from outside the Jewish com- munity. When a JTA investigative series found that the Ford Foundation had funded the activities of virulently anti- Israel groups at the 2001 U.N. World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Af- rica, Jewish officials swiftly condemned the group. After weeks of mounting pressure, the foundation conceded that it had erred and soon established new funding guidelines. When Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) wrote in a newspa- per column that the Bush administration went to war in Iraq on Israel's behalf, Jewish groups called on his colleagues to repudiate Hoi- lings' statements. The senator wasn't alone in that belief, and Jews worried that the Iraq war could spur anti-Semitism and anti-Zi- onism at home. Some Jewish analysts said that public cas- tigation of neo-conservatives See "5764" on page 38 Advanced Gynecology of Central Florida [ j j/ SPECIALIZING IN j ] DISORDERS OF LOWER URINARY TRACT IN WOMEN "/,Bladder Infections Bladder Testing Lane J. Mercer, M.D. Professor, Northwestern Univ. Medical School MOST INSURANCES ACCEPTED OFFICE HOURS: MON.- SAT. 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