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November 30, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 30, 2012 PAGE 5A By B0az Bismuth The Israel Defense Forces [was] bombing the Gaza Strip and the world [was], for the most part, silent. In fact, the IDF [was] bombing Gaza and the world [was], for the most part, supporting Israel. How is this happening? Wars today are fought not" only with bullets, but also with images. During Opera- tion Pillar of Defense, Israel has succeeded in appearing as the victim, even though it is acting with strength and determination. But don't get too excited. This could turn around in a moment. Israel's advocates have so far had a much easier time than they did during Opera- tion Cast Lead, in 2008-9. The IDF has focused on attacking specific terror- ists and has been extremely careful to not harm innocent civilians, even if this has meant calling off planned strikes. The government's instructions on this have been clear. Israel understands that wars today are fought not only on the physical battle- field. The war of images is no less important than the war of bullets. Israel's public relations officials gained enough experience from the days of the Second I ntifada to internalize the equation that lrnage war fewer civilian casualties lead to less criticism and more international legitimacy. The start of Operation Pillar of Defense went well. Israel opened the operation by killing Hamas military wing chiefAhmed Jabari and taking out long-range mis- sile sites. It would be hard for the West to criticize strikes on such targets. At the same time, Israel asked the West this question: What would you do if Paris or London were attacked? Pictures were broadcast of sites in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Kiryat Malachi that had been hit by Hamas missiles. This time, the world saw an injured Israeli baby, not just a Palestinian one. In the world's eyes, the heroes in Israel are not the country's pilots, but the civilians taking cover in bomb shelters. An image of a civilian huddling in a bomb shelter is received much more favorably than one of a pilot in a fighter jet. The IDF's pinpoint at- tacks have spoiled Hamas's public relations efforts. Hamas, along with its allies in the radical Arab world, can continue to talk about "barbaric" IDF attacks, but it has no photos to back up such accusations. There is no cause for euphoria, however, because everything can change in an instant. One mistake and the picture is reversed. Do you remember Qana (where the IDF accidentally killed large numbers of Lebanese civil'- ians in both 1996 and 2006)? Also, the diplomatic clock is continuing to tick. The French foreign minister is hurrying to come here, ahead of the United Na- tions secretary-general. The world's support is condition- al and time-limited. Israel is walking on very thin ice. The first days of the opera- tion [were] very successful, even with the air raid sirens that sounded in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over the weekend. Paradoxically, these long- range rocket attacks showed the limits of Hamas's potency. Israel will not resolve the conflictwith the Palestinians in this round or the next one. But the current military Operation is meant to bring, quiet to the South, restore Israel's deter- rence and weaken Hamas. As a bonus, Israel is receiving support from the West and understanding from the media. In a war of images, vic- tory does not necessarily come on the battlefield. So a ground operation must be considered.cautiously. It may be tempting, but it would also be risky. Editor's note: This col- umn first appeared in Israel Hayom and is distributed with the permission of that newspape~ jp By Steven A. Rakitt WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Many years ago, when I bought an engagement ring for my wife, I learned about the four C's in appraising and purchasing diamonds. Last week I learned about other precious jewels in our community and participated with more than 100 others from across the United States in a groundbreaking dis- ability inclusion conference sponsored I~y the Jewish Fed- erations of North America. Held immediately follow- ing JFNA's Genera, l Assembly in Baltimore, the conference was titled "Opening Abra- ham's Tent: The Disability Inclusion Initiative." It was an extraordinary gather- ing, bursting with inspiring moments and "tachlitic" how-tos. The room was filled with passionate, caring and dedicated volunteers and professionals seeking to share, learn and package the values to take home. It is indeed the manifestation of Jewish values to welcome and embrace our most vulnerable community members. Just as the diamond indus- try has its four C's, I believe there are also four C's in appraising our collective ap- proach to precious members of our community--our hidden jewels--who are disabled: Culture: We must en- deavor to create a culture of openness and welcoming throughout our communi- ties, from newcomers to in- terfaith families to those with special needs. An open tent is good, but not sufficient; an extended hand is a must. Statistics indicate that one of every five Americans has some sort of disability. We cannot afford to write off this huge segment of our popula- tion and their families. To have an honest conversation about enhancing services and ensure that those with special needs are included in Jewish life, we must rei.nforce the importance of creating a communal culture of respect, dignity and participation. We must do more than welcome. ,~ . . . We must sustain hlgh-quahty services and care for the long term. Competence: This requires focus, training and a com- mitment to compeence in service delivery. The Jewish community provides many high-quality services for its disabled, and many people are well meaning. If we are to successfully serve those with special needs, many of whom are feeling disenfranchised from the Jewish community, then nothing less than top- quality programming and services will do. Collaboration: No agency or synagogue is an island. Together we can create a welcome community with seamless "handoffs" for our clients. People with disabili- ties want and need services, land at various life stages. Together we can create robust points of entry and exciting opportunities throughout the communal structure. Cost: Several conference ~peakers pointed out that be- ing welcoming does not have to cost much, if anything. There are many things we can do to welcome, embrace, serve and engage those with special needs that don't impact agency or synagogue budgets. Other initiatives, however, have a significant price tag. As a community, we must be willing to state the case and make the argument that the cost of not engaging this precious population and their families is greater than the cost of any programs we initiate. We cannot be naive about the potential costs, but nearly every community has donors and foundations interested in this issue. It's our job to bring them to the table. In Washington, we will redouble our efforts to make our community even more welcoming to those withdis- abilities. The Jewish Federa- tion of Greater Washington will convene local activists who participated in the con- ference to "download" reflec- tions and ideas, then invite stakeholders for a broader conversation about-how we can be more responsive to comrfiunity needs. The four C's of disabil- ity inclusion is a simple ap- proach, even simplistic. But if we successfully create a meaningful and embracing culture, deliver competence in a coordinated manner and redouble our efforts to secure additional funding to support this holy work, I believe our tent will be more than open. It will reflect the teachings of Abraham by welcoming and embracing our community's angels. Steven A. Rakitt is the executive vice president and CE.O of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, D.C. By Evan Moffic Jewish Ideas Daily Reform Judaism is the largest movement in Ameri- can Jewry. The Union for Reform Judaism represents 900 congregations with 1.5 million members. It recently chose~a dynamic new president, Richard Jacobs. True, Rabbi Jacobs' election caused an uproar: he drew criticism from the right for his support of J Street and the New Israel Fund and charges from the left that the people he brought to URJ did not in- clude enough women. Still, the fact that a URJ leader- ship change could stir.such controversy is a sign that people care about the move- ment's future. But the Reform move- ment faces problems.far deeper than the distractions of political correctness and ideological minefields. The recent UJA-Federation study of the New York area's Jewish population provides a sense of where those problems lie. The number of Reform Jews in New York has declined both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the Jewish community. A startling 74 percent of Jewish children in New York can be identified as Orthodox. New York's trends are apparent in other population centers as well, especially the decline in synagogue affiliation and the growing numbers of interfaith families. The American Jewish community as a whole can- not survive if there is no non-Orthodox movement to which American Jews can belong; in other words, survival depends on a strong Reform movement. But in light of current trends, is that possible? Some have already answered in the negative. In 2009, Rabbi Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Ye- shiva University, declared, "We will soon say kaddish on the Reform and Conser- vative movements." Even within the Re- form movement, Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan recent- ly wrote that without a serious revision in basic structure and heightened expectations of Jewish liv- ing, Reform Judaism is doomed. ! am not so pessimistic. But, if the survival of a strong Reform movement is indeed possible, what will it require? The first indicator of the movement's problem--the decline in synagogue affili- ation-is not hard to under- stand. Increasingly, Ameri- can Jews simply choose not to join synagogues. People see synagogues as too ex- pensive, boring or irrel- evant. This trend is most pronounced in precisely those parts of our country, like the West and Southwest, where the Jewish population is growing most rapidly. The recent economic downturn has merely accelerated an already-existing trend. Thus, if Reform Judaism is to survive, the primary task of its leaders is to focus steadily on promot- ing synagogue affiliation. Synagogue membership is the citizenship card of Jewish life. It provides the resources needed to create places in which the growing intermarried population can raise Jewish children and Jewish learning can be transmitted to the vast majority of Jewish children, those who do not attend Jew- ish day schools. Synagogue membership provides fund- ing for the URJ and social capital for other Jewish organizations. This task does not re- quire us to "reimagine" synagogues or transform the ways in which they are funded; the challenge must be not redefined but met. Reform synagogues simply need to do what synagogues have done for the last 2,500 years: serve as centers of Jewish living and community. And Reform synagogues, in particular, must maintain an open door for anyone who wishes to mojo walk through it. But if that is the central task, is Reform leadership up to it? The movement needs high-quality clergy, of course; it also needs com- mitted lay leadership. The Reform movement was built on the basis of lay-rabbinic partnerships. We need to attract strong dynamic lay leaders who see and feel that the future of the Jewish people rests in their hands and not just those of professionals. Moreover, if lay leadership is stronger, rabbis will be freed to do what they are most qualified to do: articulating a compelling case for Jewish meaning in 21st-century America. Despite American Jews' extensive achievements in secular learning, they have produced no significant Jew- ish theology since Mordecai Kaplan's 1935 "Judaism as a CiVilization." Judaism needs a view of God incorporating advances in neuroscience, an understanding of Jewish identity that includes the many interfaith familieswho raise Jewish children while incorporating references to other faiths, and an under- standing of Zionism that goes beyond boiler-plate affirma- tion. The job is fully large enough to occupy the time and energies of the Reform rabbinate; strong lay leader- ship will give Reform rabbis a better chance to succeed at it. In 1969 Rabbi Richard Levy, later to become presi- dent of the Central Confer- ence of American Rabbis, wrote that the American Reform synagogue has "de- faulted, on all three of its tra- ditional functions: building community, nurturing study and engaging in meaningful worship. Since he wrote, the default has only deepened. If it is not addressed now, there may be no future op- portunity for repair. Rabbi Evan Moffic is the spiritual leader of Re- form Congregation Solel in Highland Park, Ill. This article was first published by Jewish Ideas Daily and is reprinted with permission. F H{-N ISRAB. NALLY 2ESPON05