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October 3, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 3, 2014 PAGE 5A By Caroline Glick The United States has a problem with Islamic State. Its problem is that it refuses to acknowledge why Islamic State is a problem. The problem with Islamic State is not that it is brutal. Plenty of regimes are brutal. Islamic State poses two challenges for the US. First, unlike the Saudis and even the Iranians, IS actively re- cruits Americans and other Westerners to join its lines. This is a problem because these Americans and other Westerners have embraced an ideology that is viciously hostile to every aspect of Western civilization. Two weeks ago, Buzz Feed published a compilation of social media posts by Western women who have left Chicago and London and other home- towns to join IS in Syria. As these women's social media posts demonstrate, the act of leaving the West and joining IS involves rejecting everything the West is and every thing it represents and embracing a culture of violence, murder and degra- dation. In the first instance, the women who leave the West to join IS have no qualms about entering a society in which they have no rights. They are happy covering themselves in black from head to toe. They have no problem casting their lot with a society that prohibits females from leav- ing their homes without male escorts. They have no problem sharing their husband with other wives. They don't mind because they believe that in doing so, they are advancing the cause of Islam and Allah. As the women described it, the hardest part about joining the jihad is breaking the news to your parents back home. But, as one recruiter soothed, "As long as you are firm and you know that this is all for the sake of Allah then nothing can shake you inshalah." Firm in their belief that they are part of something holy, the British, American and European jihadistas are completely at ease with IS violence. In one post, awoman nonchalantly described see- ing a Yazidi slave. "Walked into a room, gave salam to everyone in the room to find out there was a yazidi slave girl there as well ... she replied to my salam." Other posts discussed walk- ing past people getting their hands chopped off and seeing dead bodies on the street. Islamic State's beheadings of American and British hostag- es are a cause for celebration. Their pride at the behead- ings of James Foley and oth- ers is part and parcel of their hatred for the U.S. and the West. As they see it, destroy- ing the U.S. and the West is a central goal of IS. As one of the women put it, "Know this Cameron/Obama, you and your countries will be beneath our feet and your kufr will be destroyed, this is a promise from Allah that we have no doubt over... This Islamic empire shall be known and feared world wide and we will follow none other than the law of the one and the only ilah!" These women do not feel at all isolated. And they have no reason to. They are surrounded by otherWestern- ers who joined IS for the same reasons they did. In one recruitment post, Western women were told that not knowingArabic is no reason to stay home. "You can still survive if you don't speak Arabic. You can find almost every race and nationality here." The presence of Westerners in IS, indeed, IS's aggressive efforts to recruit Western- ers wouldn't pose much of a problem for the U.S. if it were willing to secure its borders and recognize the root of the problem. But as U.S. President Barack Obama made clear over the summer, and indeed since he first took office six years ago, he opposes any ef- fort to secure the U.S. border with Mexico. Ifthesejihadists can get to Mexico, theywill, in all likelihood, have no problem coming to America. Even if the U.S. were to secure its southern border, it would still be unable to prevent these jihadists from returning to attack. The policy of the U.S. government is to deny the existence ofajihadist threat by, among other thing, denying the existence of the ideology of Islamic jihad. When President Barack Obama insisted .that Islamic State is not Islamic, he told all the Westerners who are now proud mujihadin that they shouldn't worry about coming home. They won't be screened. As far as the U.S. is concerned their Islamic jihad ideology doesn't exist. Whereas every passenger arriving in the U.S. from Libe- ria can be screened for Ebola, no one will be screened for exposure to jihadist thought. And this brings us to the second problem IS poses to the U.S. As a rising force in the Middle East, IS threatens U.S. allies and it threatens global trade. To prevent its allies from being overthrown and to prevent shocks to the international economy, at a minimum, the U.S. needs to contain IS. And given the threat the Westerners joining the terror army constitute, and Washington's unwill- ingness to stop them at the border, in all likelihood, the U.S. needs to destroy IS where it stands. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that the U.S. is willing or able to either contain or defeat IS. As U.S. Maj. Gen. (ret.) Robert Scales wrote in The Wall Street Journal~ from a military perspective, IS is little different from all the guerrilla forces the U.S. has faced in battle since the Ko- rean War. Scales argues that in all previous such engage- ments, the outcomes have been discouraging because the U.S. lacks the will to take the battle to the societies that feed them or use its firepower to its full potential out of fear of killing civilians. Clearly this remains the case today. Moreover, as Angelo Codev- ilia explained last month in Glick on page 15A By Andrew Silow-Carroll I once heard a rabbi, a noted proponent of a Greater Israel, make a plea to his congrega- tion for bipartisan empathy. This was just a few years after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, when both the Right's dreams for an unchecked settlement movement and the Left's dreams of a two-state solution appeared dashed. "Friends," he said, "wheth- er we are on the right or the left, I think we can all agree that our dreams have died." "Except," whispered a left- leaning friend, "his dream killed my dream." That's the problem when rabbis talk about Israel. Any sentence that includes "we can all agree" means exactly the opposite. There are very few things all Jews can agree on, let alone when it comes to Israel. Rabbis who talk politics in the pulpit end up alienating somebody, unless the rabbi has unusual authority, the congregation is unusually homogenous, or the minority is unusually forgiving. Better to avoid the topic altogether, or speak about Israel in the most anodyne or least controversial terms. I suspect that charitable groups that support the IDF or "lone soldiers" are having their mo- ment because the welfare of the troops is something "we can all agree on." What else? Not politics, not religion, not civil rights, not even social welfare (especially when so many of Israel's economic issues are tied up in debates about theArab minority or the fervently Orthodox). As The New York Times reported this week, the Gaza war has made rabbis ever more reluctant to speak their minds on Israel. That's especially true in the non-Orthodox movements, where reliably liberal domestic politics are more likely to clash with hawkish views on Israel. The rabbis quoted bemoan a lack of civility surrounding the Israel debate. The article cites a 2013 questionnaire by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; one-third of the 552 rabbis who responded said they publicly repress their privately held views on Israel. What's more, "the 'doves'were far more likely to say they were fearful of speaking their minds than the 'hawks.'" For one noted dove, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Peter Beinart recently sug- gested that rabbis refrain from sermonizing on Israel -- not because they would be risk- ing their jobs or alienating congregants, but because they don't bring much that is new to a tired and ubiquitous debate. Congregants, after all, read the same newspapers, follow the same websites. What rabbis should talk about, Beinart writes in Ha'aretz, is Jewish text. "The bestway to ensure thatAmeri- can Jews stay connected to Israel is to ensure that they stay connected to Judaism," he writes. The social science is with him: Studies consistently link the"distancing" from Israel not with politics but with lack of engagement with Jewish life in the first place. I'd imagine many rabbis would find Beinart's advice liberating, and limiting. Israel has become a central issue in the life and identity of Ameri- can Jews. Considering this summer's searing conflict, it would be weird and even der- elict if the sanctuary were the only place where the country's security and future were not being discussed. Surely "Jew- ish text" has a lot to say on just and unjust wars, self-defense, and Jewish sovereignty. The question is whether we can teach, talk, and sermonize about Israel without pretend- ing "we can all agree" or that one side has all the answers. The answer lies in the rich Jewish literature on civility in argument, or What the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes as "the ability to disagree with others while respecting their sincerity and decency." Its pithiest expres- sion comes from Ethics of the Fathers: "Every mahloket (argument) which is l'shem shamayim is destined to endure." L'shem shamayim translates as "for the sake of heaven," and almost literally means arguing in good faith -- that is, with the intent of solving a problem, respecting the other party, and being open to the possibility of changing your mind. The JCPA runs a "civility project" which has been try- ing to "build open, construc- tive communication across political divides on Israel." Its website offers resources for talking about how we talk about Israel. Rabbis can also talk about the need for and rewards of engaging with Israel -- no matter your politics or interests. One of the most dispiriting trends of recent years is the attempt by vari- ous right-wing groups to discredit Jewish organizations -- from J Street to the New Israel Fund -- with which they disagree. Opponents tell themselves they are "saving" Israel from bad ideas, when what they are really doing is giving Jews fewer options for engaging with Israel. Rabbis should celebrate the diversity of opinion within Israel and among its support groups and promote those programs --right, left, center, sideways -- that connect Jews to Israel through ideas, relationships, and activism. Finally, let's not put the entire burden on the rabbis to say the "right" thing. Let the worst thing to happen to you this holiday season be that you hear an opinion that you disagree with. Don't blame the rabbi -- thank her for sparking an argument for the sake of heaven. Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News. Between columns you can read his writing at the J~istASC blog. By Robert Israel Lappin Every fall, Jewish teens arrive on college campuses unprepared, uninformed and unable to cope with the hostility and antagonism against Israel and Jews that they find there. While Birthright Israel does a com- mendable job of bolstering Jewish student pride and community, the program could have a much greater impact if the age of eligibility was lowered to 16. When Birthright Israel started in 1999, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities on campus were not the Critical issue they have become. Con- sequently, teachi~ng Jewish teens Israel advocacy skills and complex approaches to Israel before they go to college is a new and urgent need. By lowering the age of eligibility to 16 from the cur- rent 18, Birthright Israel can continue being the best and possibly only solution to battle the growing crisis quickly and effectively. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effective- ness of the teen Israel experi- ence. Most recently, Professor Steven M. Cohen and Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz conducted a study of alumni, aged 18 to 39, of the Lappin Foundation's Youth to Israel Adventure (Y2t), a fully subsidized Israel experience for 16- and 17-year-old Jews. The recently released findings of the commissioned study found that72 percent of those Y2I alumni have married fel- low Jews and of those who are parents, 90 percent of them are raising their children Jewish. The study suggests that Birthright Israel's effective- ness would not be diluted by lowering the age of eligibility to 16, and that doing so would indeed provide an opportunity for Birthright Israel to signifi- cantly improve by expanding its reach and role in address- ing one of the Jewish world's growing crises. A teen Israel experience before college provides the background and time--up to two years--for teens to learn how to advocate for Israel, something that Birthright Israel is not fully able to do, given that its trips take place after a young adult's college experience has started. As has been Y2I's practice for years, local communi- ties can develop programs that will train and equip Jewish teens with the skills and techniques necessary to contend with anti-Israel and anti4ewish activities and sentiments before, during and after their college years, but only if the teens have been fortified with an Israel experience. The firsthand experience of having been in Israel, understanding Israel's role in the world and marvel- ing at Israel's contributions to every field ofhuman endeavor resonates with teens, making not only Israel advocacy ef- fective but Jewish life more readily meaningful. The key to attracting Jewish teens en masse to an Israel experience is the adoption of the justly admired Birthright Israel model: a free 10-day trip. Birthright Israel is the only viable entity to meet this new challenge. If Birthright Israel agrees to lower its age of eligibility to 16 and the government of Israel helps to fund it as part of its new initiative, the Jewish world will be well on its way to combating campus anti-Semitism and fortifyinga proud and strong generation of ~ampus Jews. Robert Israel Lappin is president of the Lappin Foun- dation in Salem, Mass.