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August 31, 1984 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-08-31

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

LIBERAL
VOICE
IN LANSING

40

Friday, August 31, 1984

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

With political ideals based on her Jewish
values, Ann Arbor State Senator Lana
Schoenberger Pollack represents
Michigan's most populous district.

BY HENRY SREBRNIK

Special to The Jewish News

A woman walks in to an Ann
Arbor restaurant, carrying a brief-
case and sporting a Mondale button
on her dress, in a town where a
majorty of Democrats had favored
Gary Hart. She is immediately ap-
proached by a few of the cafe's
patrons, asking about her work, her
plans, her schedule. These friendly
but curious people are, after all her
constituents.
Lana Schoenberger Pollack re-
presents Ann Arbor and the rest of
Washtenaw County (with the excep-
tion of Saline Township) in the
Michigan State Senate. Her district,
the 18th, is the most populous in the
state, with about 263,000 residents.
It is a heterogeneous mix: sophisti-
cated university and high-tech resi-
dents, blue-collar auto workers, and
the farmers and artisans of the rural
parts of the country. Apart from the
transient student population at the
University of Michigan and Eastern
Michigan University, there are
about 3,000 Jews in the district, al-
most all of them in Ann Arbor.
Pollack is a freshman Senator,
first elected in November 1982, when
she beat Republican Roy Smith in a
close vote, 52 percent to 48 percent.
"The 18th Senate District is consid-
ered a swing district," she explains.
Smith had been a member of the
State House of Representatives from
the Ann Arbor area for 14 years and
Pollack's only previous elective posi-
tion was a three-year stint as a trus-
tee on the Ann Arbor Board of Educa-

tion. It was, she feels, an election not
without its low points, some of them
relating to her being Jewish.
Pollack seems case in a
classically Jewish liberal mold, her
politics based on universalistic val-
ues like concern with justice, the
need for equality and economic wel-
fare, and those items traditionally
part of the Jewish political agenda.
She is, she admts, very much a
daughter of the "FDR genera-
tion,"when the Democratic Party
forged an electoral alliance among
Jews, blacks, other ethnic minorities
and labor. She is uncomfortable with
the idea that many Jews, disil-
lusioned with the United Nations
and Third World countries that at-
tack Israel, and uncertain about
domestic black demands for affirma-
tive action and job quotas, have
moved away from that coalition.
Pollack remains firm in her own
beliefs: "A Jew should be a liberal, at
least on social issues, even if not in
fiscal policy," she insists. "This is the
core of the religion as my mother
taught it to me. I consider my princi-
ples to be fundamentally Jewish, as I
was taught Judaism. After the pri-
mary religious belief in monotheism,
the sustaining force in Judaism is to
do justice to other human beings, and
to provide a just society where each
individual can fulfill himself in his
own unique way. The sanctity of each
human being is essential tb a Jew.
Everything else flows from that.
"As a group, our greatness is in

our commitment to human justice,
ment. Today, in the wake of Jesse
within which we can flourish. With-
Jackson's candidacy and Louis Far-
out a pluralistic, open society, Jews
rakhan's remarks, it seems to have
cannot survive. So all issues are
hit rock-bottom.
Jewish issues. A larger share of our
"It breaks my heart," said Pol-
efforts should be directed towards
lack, "to see a schism between groups
broader commitments, and Jews
which should be allies. The Jews in
should start paying more attention to
this election have to look at why it's
state politics. I see the Jewish com-
possible for Farrakhan to say things.
munity's efforts as geared to the
It's not enough to just cry anti-
American-Israeli relationship.
Semitism and leave it at that. We
While this is necessary, it's not suffi-
must look at constructive ways of
cient. We must protect the open
bridging the gap; Jews should be
society, though without becoming as-
doing constructive things."
similationists. Otherwise, society
The old alliance fell apart be-
breaks down, and we'll be the
cause it was perceived by blacks as a
scapegoat."
master-servant relationship,
Pollack was dismayed by the
claimed Pollack. Black people shop-
large percentage of Jews who voted
ped at Jewish stores, served as maids
for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and who
in Jewish homes, and were some-
may do so again this year. She feels
times even referred to in derogatory
they have lost touch with their own
terms. "Of course, Jews were not the
ideals. "They should understand that
primary oppressors, but they were on
the election of a right-wing person is
the cutting edge," Pollack stressed.
not in the interest of Jews as Jews. I
"Farrahkan's statements are just
told a B'nai B'rith meeting in South-
vile — there'll always be vile people
field that when Jews, who certainly
around. But why," she asked, "is
are among the most educated, liter-
there so much distrust today between
ate, and critically-minded people in
Jews and blacks, and what can we do
this country, don't bother to analyze
about it?"
the implications of their votes, then I
One of the issues that has sepa-
have cause for concern."
rated the two communities has been
Sen. Pollack feels many Jews,
the Middle East. But black people are
and liberals in general, were fooled,
not alone in questioning many of Is-
perhaps even cowed, by the apparent
rael's policies. Last fall, in Ann Ar-
size and strength of the Moral Major-
bor, a group called People for the Re-
ity. "The Moral Majority has very
assessment of Aid to Israel (PRAI)
cleverly, systematically, and effec-
failed
to gain city council approval
tively made it seem as if their views
for an advisory vote on a cutoff of
were held by the majority of Ameri-
American aid to Israel equal to the
cans, as if their views were
amount Israel spends on settlements
mainstream. It made Jews feel they
in'the
West Bank and on its forces in
were even more alienated from
America than they are, and many ' Lebanon: The group was accused by
many of being a front for the
were silenced.
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
"You know, the perception of
Committee, and the petition was op-
power often translates into real
posed by the organized Ann Arbor
power, " the state Senator warned.
Jewish community, including the
She advises American Jews to
"dovish" New Jewish Agenda chap-
"assess reality."
ter:
It comes as no surprise to learn
Sen. Pollack took no part in the
that Pollack's views lead her to op-
debate.
"I was not asked to be in-
pose mandatory prayer in the public
volved,
and
as a result I didn't take a
schools and public funding of private
position,"
she
said. She was quick to
and religious schools. "I'm a purist in
affirm
her
"absolute
commitment to
the separation of Church and State ---
Israel."
Nonetheless,
added the Ann
this applies equally to all religions.
Arbor
legislator,
"there
must be a
I'm adamant on the 'prayer issue. I
peaceful
resolution
of
the
outstand-
grew up in a minority situation, and I
ing
Arab-Israeli
issues
that
are the
know what prayers they'd be saying!
cause of continuing warfare.
Mandated prayer is coercive prayer
Dialogue has to be maintained."
— it strikes at the First Amendment,
Pollack is critical of those in the
the right to freedom of speech, a criti-
Jewish
community who feel there
cal underpinning of this country.
can be no dissent when it comes to
"I am also strongly opposed to
support of Israel. "Jews need to be
public dollars going to private
continually self-critical. They should
schools, including Jewish day
not be so afraid. The basis of our reli-
schools. I would not yield on that
gion and culture is the use of your
principle. In a way, we already have
mind. We shouldn't cut off debate. If
state funds supporting private edu-
those in the New Jewish Agenda
cation, through tuition differential
don't have the right answers, or are
grants, which have increased
naive, or are in danger of being
dramatically in the past few years.
coopted, still, we should be,glad they
Insofar as we weaken public schools,
are looking for answers. Don't shoot
we weaken the opportunities for up-
the messenger, even if he's imper-
ward mobility, integration and, suc-
fect," she pleaded. (Pollack has met
cess for new and poor Americans. The
with the New Jewish Agenda chapter
poor are already among the most de-
in Ann Arbor, at their request, she
spised people in this country — it
said.) Pollack, worried that her
goes against the American ethic!
critique sounded more severe than
Public education used to be at the
she intended, added that "family
heart of this country, and I still be-
members have an obligation to see to
lieve in some of the old myths as goals
it that the ideals upon which Israel
and values."
was founded are maintained."
Pollack looks back nostalgically
The State 'Senator visited Israel
to the 1950s and early 1960s, when
for the first time in the summer of
the black-Jewish alliance reached its
1983. "I was not quite prepared for
crescendo in the civil rights move-
my own enthusiasm," she said. "The

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