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February 15, 1985 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-02-15

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2

Friday, February 15, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

The Newly-Developing Jewish Leadership On Global Sca e

With less fanfare than is apparent, a
newly-developing world Jewish leadership
is making its mark with an unusual inter-
est.
It is especially evident in the World
Jewish Congress.
The sessions in Vienna earlier this
month indicated that Edgar Bronfman,
who assumed a top role only recently, may
exert great influence upon the approach-
ing events affecting Jewish life on a global
scale. The invitation extended to
Bronfman to visit the Soviet Union may
provide the opportunity his predecessor,
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, craved for.
Dr. Goldmann often spoke . with
greater confidence in possible good rela-
tions with Russia. His approaches seemed
far-fetched to the skeptical. Bronfman may
prove that the Goldmann views should
have been given greater credence.
Philip Klutznick, who presided over
the deStinies of the World Jewish Congress

between the administrations of Goldmann
and Bronfman, followed the Goldmann
line, seeking USSR accords, conceding
where and when it was necessary to secure
closer contacts even with those who were
most antagonistic to Jewry and to Israel.
Whatever the developments, the
World Jewish Congress story can never be
complete without recognizing the organ-
izational impacts of Dr. Stephen S. Wise.
He was the creator of the movement. He
was its inspiration. He brought Nahum
Goldmann into it. He may have been less
revolutionary than his successors, but was
equally as militant. He was the very sym-
bol of Jewish leadership.
The changing times may have affected
the new developments involving leader-
ship. The Bronfman era may prove that
time brings into focus the needed direction..
The road to achieving diplomatic ac-
cords will not be an easy one for Bronfman.

Stephen S. Wise

Nahum Goldmann

It won't be easy to make a path to the PLO
and the Shiite Moslems. It will be strewn
with obstacles relating to the USSR. There
is, already, a campaign to draw the Soviets
into Middle East negotiations on a par with
the United States. The warnings are
against such an involvement, the danger of

Edgar Bronfman Philip Klutznick

Russian domination carrying with it
menacing results for the entire world dip-
lomacy.
Hopefully, the Bronfman involvement
will avoid evils and will reach amity with
the widest cooperation of Jewish move-
ments and leaderships.

,_\

Cemetery As Source
In History Writing, As
Beth Olam And Hayyim

In the writing of the history of the Jews
in the last few centuries, in the process of
compiling data about Jewish experiences
among the nations, the cemetery became
an important source for desired informa-
tion. Tombstones often revealed desired
facts. The background of noted per-
sonalities were acquired at the cemetery,
which is in Hebrew Beth Olam.
But cemeteries
41 .
also have been desec-
T
rated. Many have been
demolished, as in the areas which were
populated by the millions who became vic-,
tims of the Nazi Holocaust.
The German "experience" invites con-
cern about the country where the Nazi ter-
ror developed and the "fate" of the Jewish
cemeteries in that country is of interest.
Under the title "The Significance of the
JewiSh Cemetery," a most interesting ac-
count was published in the Sueddeutsche
Zeitung of Nov. 26. It is revealing in its
entirety and it was published in the follow-
ing English translation in the German
Tribune of Hamburg of Dec. 9:

In Hebrew it is called Beth
Olam (Place of Eternity), but Ger-
man Jews call it just A Good Place.
For the cemetery is for Jews a
holy place and watching after the
dead is one of the most important
commandments of the Jewish
faith.
There are about 1,400 Jewish
cemeteries in West Germany, and
the gravestones reflect the history
of the Jews in Germany.
There are red sandstone
stones from the middle of the 19th
Century and imposing, extravag-
ant monuments dating from the
flourishing days of the Jewish
community around the turn of the
century.
And the gap that follows the
year 1938 relates the story of a
Jewish tragedy: it was on Nov. 9
and 10, 1938 that the terror of Nazis
hit full throttle — Reichskris-
tallnacht.
In the Jewish faith, cemeteries
allow the dead peace for eternity.
Jewish graves, therefore, are used
only once. This is in contrast to
Christian graves, where graves are
often reused after 10 years.
Germany's first Jewish
cemeteries were in the Rhine cen-

ters of Speyer, Worms and Mainz.
With the dispersion of the Jews in.
the Middle Ages — they were
blamed for the plague — many
cemeteries were destroyed and the
grave stones used in various ways.
In Speyer, for example, they were
used to build a bridge across the
Rhine.
In the 18th Century, Jewish
settlements began again to estab-
lish themselves. New cemeteries
were established. In the mood of
reform after the French revolu-
tion, guarantees over cemetery
rights were given the Jews by
German princes. Some Jewish
cemeteries have even become
Christian cemeteries, in
Kaiserslautern, for example.
Even today, Jewish cemeteries
are threatened with desecration.
There were 598 cases between 1945
and 1982, according to Frankfurt
historian Adolf Diamant. In barely
37 percent of cases, the identity of
the culprits became known. A
third of the vandals were either
right-wing extremists or anti-
Semites and the other two-thirds
children and youths.
The states have made avail-
able material to enable the graves
to be restored.
Cemetery — Beth Olam -- is in-
structively defined in A Book of Jewish
Concepts, in which its scholarly author, Dr.
Philip Birnbaum, in part provides this in-
formation:
After the Bar Kokhba defeat in
132, when the ancient Jewish
cemetery on the Mount of Olives,
east of Jerusalem, became closed
to the Jewish people, the
catacombs at Beth Shearim be-
came the new burial center for de-
vout Jews. In talmuclic-midrashic
sources there is no reference to the
recently-discovered subterrea-
nean burial galleries beneath a
mountain at Beth Shearim, in the
Valley of Jezreel, with pillared
vaults of rock and side recesses for
tombs, similar to those found in
Rome, where six separate systems
of Jewish catacombs of the
classical period have became
known. A Greek inscription in bold
letters, carved near the entrance of
one of the Beth Shearim
catacombs, reads: "Good luck on
your resurrection."
It has been noted that the tide
of Hellenization reached its peak

during the period of Beth Shearim,
between the Second and Fourth
Centuries, when the Roman em-
pire was saturated with Greek feel-
ing. This explains the reliefs of
animals and plants and human
faces, with rich mosaics, in designs
essentially Greek, that have been
revealed in the Beth Shearim
catacombs. According to a tannai-
tic report, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi
declared: "Why speak Aramaic in
Eretz Yisrael? One should speak
either Hebrew or Greek."
The euphemistic names beth
hayyim (house of life), beth `olam
(house of eternity) and beth `almin
(beth `olam) allude to various bibli-
cal and post-biblical expressions.
The name beth kovorot (house of
graves) occurs in the Bible
(Nehemiah 2:3). We are told in the
Talmud that cemeteries must not
be treated with disrespect (Megil-
lah 29a). "Walk reverently in a
cemetery, lest the deceased will
say: Tomorrow they will join us,
and today they mock us" (Be-
rakhoth 18a). For reasons of
priestly cleanliness kohanim have
been forbidden to enter a cemet-
ery. Graves are customarily visited
during the month preceding Rosh
Hashanah and upon anniversaries
of the death of close relatives.
Such is the process of Jewish historical
and traditional experience. There is much
to learn from a Beth Olam that is at the
same time a Beth Hayyim, a life-inspiring
element. The German record adds im-
mensely to the recording of contemporary
history.

Judaism Defined
In Jacobs' Book
Of Jewish Belief'

Rabbi Louis Jacobs, with a record of
having produced numerous scholarly
works dealng with Jewish traditional
topics, adds immensely to the bookshelf
with volumes bearing his byline on mat-
ters relating to Jewish ceremonialism and
Judaism in its total inspiration. His The
Book of Jewish Belief (Behrman House)
has special merit in its definition of
Judaism and the observances and ideologi-
cal aspects.
Torah, Bible, belief in God, mitzvot,
the Sabbath and festivals, Tallit and Tefil-
lin and a score of other related topics are
covered in the scholarly fashion in which

Dr. Jacobs treats the themes tackled in his
many works.
Especially significant as an emphasis
on the importance of his treatment of the
total subject matter in this book is his defi-
nition of Judaism. He provides this inspi-
rational message:

.. Judaism is
the religion of
the Jewish
people, who
believe in the
One
of -
Creator God,
heaven and
earth, who
loves all His
creatures and
who has cho-
sen Israel by
giving them
His Torah so
Louis Jacobs
that they, and
through them humanity, may have
His presence dwell among them.
Judaism is a practical religion,
concentrating more on correct ac-
tion than on correct beliefs.
Yet it would be a gross distor-
tion to view Judaism as having
nothing to say about belief. For a
religion of action without any be-
liefs is not a religion but a set of
mechanical observances. A non-
Jewish writer's definition of
Judaism is not far off the mark.
"Judaism," he writes, "is the reli-
gion of doing the will of God." He
does well to place the emphasis on
action, but it is an emphasis that
has always grown out of Judaism's
belief that God is and that the ac-
tions conform to His will."
Every topic outlined by Dr. Jacobs
merits emphasis. Notable in his analyses is
his treatment of the subject dealing with
the ethical character of the Jewish people.
The following excerpt lends importance to
the studies conducted by the eminent
author:
The Jewish ideal is not only for
a person to behave ethically, im-
portant though this undoubtedly
is, but to have an ethical character.
The Torah teaches us not only how
to behave but also how to become
better people. Some Jewish
teachers talk in this connection of
self-perfection. "Perfection" is a
pretty high-sounding word and no
human being can ever be perfect.
God alone is perfect. Self-

Continued on Page 18

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