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April 30, 1976 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1976-04-30

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

14 April 30, 1976


A Bicentennial Feature


Jewish Look at Ben Franklin


(Copyright 1976, JTA, Inc.)

Of the outstanding fig-
ures of 1776 that we recall
today, there is one, Ben
Franklin, we would remem-
ber even if the events of 1776
had not occurred. He was
remarkable for many rea-
sons. He was one of the dis-
coverers of electricity. He
was full of wise sayings
which we still quote today.
He was the last of 17 chil-
dren which also remarkable.
The name Benjamin is, of
course, Hebrew. Jacob or
Israel, the Bible tells us, had
12 children and the last was
named Benjamin, from the
two Hebrew words Ben
meaning son and Oni, old
age. No doubt the Bible
story influenced the choice
of Franklin's name. Frank-
lin was born in Boston
where the Puritan influence
was strong and the Puritans
were especially fond of the
Hebraic scriptures.

There is no record of
Franklin giving anything to
the United Jewish Appeal or
buying Israel Bonds, but he
did make a contribution to
the building of the first syn-
agogue in Philadelphia.

What was Franklin's
religion? He appears to
have been interested in the
subject of prayer from his
earliest days. His father,
no doubt, was religious
minded and young Ben
with his inventive mind, is
said to have suggested one
day to his father that time
could be saved if prayer
was recited before the
whole barrel of pork in-
stead of each individual

Every sect seemed to
claim him as one of their
own and Franklin thought
they all served a purpose. "If
men are so bad with reli-
gion," he said, "what would

they be without it?"
Franklin did not go
through with his plan for
starting a religion, but he
did profess to have written a
chapter of the Bible. He
took an old legend, said to
be of Midrashic origin and
rewrote it.

The legend tells of Abra-
ham ejecting from his tent a
stranger to whom he had of-
fered first his hospitality.
He threw him out when he
discovered the stranger was
an idolator. Then God said
to Abraham, "Where is the
stranger you took in?"

And Abraham answered,
"Lord, he would not worship
thee, neither would he call
upon Thy name. Therefore,
have I driven him to the

And God said, "Have I
not borne with this man
these 190 years and nour-
ished and clothed him no-

`Jewish Civics' Guidebook Printed
to Bolster Youths' Jewish Identity


(Editor-in-chief emeritus, JTA)
(Copyright 1976, JTA, Inc.)

A good deal of soul-
searching is now going on
among Jewish community
leaders and in the Jewish
educational world as to why
a great many young Jews
are drifting aivay from the
Jewish community.
The Task Force on Jewish
Identity formed by the
Council of Jewish Federa-
tions and Welfare Funds, as
well as a similar task force
formed by the American
Jewish Committee, in as-
sessing the state of Jewish
education in this country,
have both come to the con-
clusion that there is a need
for redesigning Jewish edu-
cation in the United States,
if Jewish schools are to in-
volve students in the life of
the Jewish community.
At a national conference
of the American Associa-
tion for Jewish Education,
the problem was discussed'
at great length. It was rec-
ommended to pay more
attention to Jewish civics
in Jewish schools as a
means of strengthening
Jewish identity among
As a result, a Commission
on Jewish Civics was estab-
lished by the AAJE for the
purpose of stimulating and
producing materials, pro-
grams and teaching strate-
gies focussed on the Jewish
community (locally and na-
tionally) in action.
Based on studies by its
commission on Jewish civ-
ics, the AAJE published an
excellent Jewish Civics
Sourcebook to serve as a
leader's guide for teaching
citizenship in the Jewish
The lavishly-produced
110-page guidebook — the
publication of which was
made possible through a gift
from Robert H. Arnow,
AAJE president, and his
wife — aims to promote in- ,

terest in Jewish civics as an
integral aspect of the curri-
culum of the Jewish school.
It is intended for formal
and informal Jewish edu-
cation and contains a
wealth of proposals. It
highlights numerous
"sensitivity" experiences
to help Jewish youth de-
velop a meaningful indi-
vidual relationship with
the functioning Jewish
community and, in due
course, become responsi-
ble participants in its ac-
The guidebook is also in-
tended for Jewish commu-
nity centers and Jewish
youth clubs.
Prior to the publication of
its comprehensive source-
book, the AAJE issued an
elaborate course study for
teaching civics in upper
grades of Jewish junior high
schools and in Jewish high
The course is composed of
four separate units, each
dealing with some aspects
of Jewish civics: 1. Jewish
identity in our time; 2. The
Jewish community in ac-
tion; 3. The synagogue as

part of organized communal
life; 4. The interrelation-
ships among American, Is-
raeli and other Jewish com-
munities of the world.
Benjamin Efron, the
noted Jewish educator
who prepared this course
also is the editor of the
AAJE Jewish Civics
With an eye to the future
of the Jewish community in
the United States, the
AAJE Sourcebook also pro-
poses a program by which a
local Jewish community can
bring young people of high
school age into gratifying
personal touch with its
work, services and activities.
The proposed program is
divided into an "apprentice
phase" of two years and a
"leadership training phase"
of two years.
The "apprentices" would
be required to follow a spe-
cial Jewish study program
beyone attendance of a Jew-
ish school and to perform
volunteer service for at least
40 hours a year in an agency
or organization in the Jew-
ish community.

Israel Skeptical of Reports
Implying Syria Negotiations

Israeli officials have
reacted incredulously at
stories printed in Haaretz
this week that Syria is con-
templating interim talks
with Israel.
The paper's diplomatic
writer Matti Golan reported
that Hafez Assad expressed
readiness in principle to
meet with President Ford,
and readiness in principle to
consider an interim settle-
ment with Egypt.
Israeli officials say firmly
they have no evidence to
back any of Golan's reports.
They note that Syria has
issued no official state-

ment with regard to its
intentions on renewing the
UNDOF mandate, due to
expire May 30. They pre-
dict that Damascus will
reserve its position till the
very last moment.
There is no evidence ei-
ther, the officials say, that
Assad has softened his ear-
lier refusal to contemplate
interim talks with Israel.
On the other hand, they
acknowledge that a dra-
matic improvement has oc-
curred in Assad's relations
with Washington, as a re-
sult of the close collabora-
tion between Syria and the
U.S. over Syria's involve-
ment in Lebanon.

twithstanding his rebel-
lion against me? Couldst
not thou, who art thyself a
sinner, bear with him one
Franklin, writing up the
legend, inserted it in his
Bible as an additional chap-
ter of Genesis and when
people were intolerant, he
would ask them to read it.
At the Continental Con-
gress, Franklin proposed
that the seal of the new-
born United States should
be an engraving of the Lord
shielding the Israelites as
they were fleeing from the
bondage of Pharoah. Thus,
he identified early America
with Israel.
Philadelphia, in the days
of Franklin, a town of about
30,000, had a sprinkling of
Jews, some of whom were
influential. The Gratz fam-
ily which had come there
about 30 years before the
revolution was one of the
important Jewish families.
Rebecca Gratz, who was to
be the model of Sir Walter
Scott's Rowena in
"Ivanhoe," was a little later
Dr. Benjamin Rush said
all the Jews were Whigs,
that is to say, supporters
of independence. This is
not entirely true. The
gifted Rebecca Franks, a
kind of Dorothy Parker of
her day, for instance, was
a Tory. She referred to
Washington as "the
wretched author of thy
country's grief." How-
ever, Col. Davis S. Franks
was a revolutionary
leader. Moses Levy, whom
Jefferson later considered
for the post of Attorney
General in his Cabinet,
was one of the soldiers
marching with Washing-
ton at Trenton.
Philadelphia, of course,
was also the home of Haim
Salomon, who did a great
deal to help in the financing
of the war for independence.

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