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August 23, 1985 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-08-23

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

2 Friday, August 23, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Home And Synagogue: A Revolutionary Theme

When Dr. W. Gunther Plant pro-
posed in his presidential message to the
recent convention of the Central Confer-
ence of American Rabbis (CCAR) that
the Friday night services should be
abandoned in favor of an organized effort
to make the Sabbath morning services
the prevalent practices, he was virtually
laughed out of court. Perhaps two or
three congregations took him seriously
and that may have been the sum total of
the support he received in his revolu-
tionary idea.
Many
weeks have
passed since
the Plant idea
was treated
as sensation
and ignored
as impractical
by the Reform
rabbis. It
need not be
forgotten or
pigeonholed,
ilk •,
when the
state of af-
fairs of
Jewish educa-
tion and the
Rabbi Plaut
problem of
declining school enrollments is given
serious consideration. The very idea of
Plaut's suggestion, when related to
schools and to the people concerned with
genuine Jewish achievements, demands
that what was involved in a revolution-
ary thought affecting houses of worship
must not be ignored.
Habits are hard to break. Principles
may be difficult to introduce, revive and
adhere to. Truth and reality must be
taken into consideration.
Sure, those who make the Friday
night at the synagogue will find it dif-
ficult to adopt the Sabbath morning
habit. But if that were. to be achieved
not only would the Sabbath regain its
power in Jewish life — it would reinsti-
tute the forcefulness of the home in
Jewish tradition and in the power of
family life and loyalty that is so vital to
Jewish existence.
In the latter respect, consideration
needs to be given also to the influence
the home has on the children, on the
schools they must attend, the lessons of
Jewish life they must learn. If that could
be attained, there would be less diffi-
culty in making the home the priority.
That would also encourage a new the
loyalty to the Sabbath via the
synagogue.
There is a specific obligation to seri-
ous consideration of the Plaut proposal.
It is the undeniable fact of a decline in
the schooling, a threat to the entire
Jewish educational system, a menace to
Jewish devotionalism in the weaknesses
that are presently paramount.
While there was limited jubilation
over Jewish schools' enrollment gains of
4 percent since 1979, to a total of
372,000, the decline in the last two de-
cades is appalling. There was a 37 per-
cent decrease in the 1984 figure of
372,000 from the 1962 figure of 589,000.
There are many legitimate reasons
to account for this drastic decline in the
crucial years involved. But there is little
hope of improvement unless there is also
the revolutionary approach, and this
may have been primary in the Plant
suggestion — because it would mean
glorifying the home for strength by
tran&rring the 7sidity night monopoly
to the legitimateAdirds morning, •
Wee includes the
The wheel
omen OW it *AP ha mailable gust-
ided *WM , lbw la au important re,

lated factor in the JTA report from Tel
Aviv that "thousands of Israeli school
teachers registered to teach in New York
public schools for a year or two." The re-
port stated that "they were answering an
advertisement in Israeli newspapers ask-
ing those interested with at least a
Bachelor's degree to come and be inter-
viewed by Richard Wollin, principal of
the Taft Public School in the Bronx." Is-
raelis coming to the U.S. to teach could
surely contribute toward educational ad-
vancement in both the public and Jewish
schools. However, the chief Jewish need
is not to import teachers, but to train the
most qualified applicants for the posi-
tions.
What Dr. Plant proposed was not
mere sensation. It related to a great
need. It is the strengthening of home
ties. It is providing priority for the fam-
ily and its home influence. Perhaps some
rabbis will revive consideration of that
revolutionary idea for the best interests
of Jewry and the people's needs and ob-
ligations.

'Mikado': A Relief

There is lots to worry about in Is-
rael. The economy is grim. The PLO
threats are still on the agenda. Peace-
making is difficult. Oh — and the reli-
gious extremists are often like knife-
wielders to the nation's sense of dignity.
Yet, there are the cultural aspects,
the successes of the universities, the
stagecraft, the artistic aims that defy ob-
stacles.
Now it is the Gilbert and Sullivan
opera that is sensationalizing Israel and
acts as a signal to Jews everywhere —
perhaps to all mankind — that a people
that can enjoy a good show and are able
to laugh may, indeed, be unconquerable.
Proof of this contention was provided
recently by the Light Opera Group of the
Negev. It produced what has already
proved a sensation and may be an intro-
duction to another Israel-Diaspora cul-
tural link.
Mikado amidst agonies is not a mat-
ter to trifle with. A group that might
have been judged as amateurs produced
it in the Nahmani Hall in Tel Aviv.
Attendance was a sellout. The actors in-
cluded a doctor, a judge, and social
workers.
Israel Scene magazine covered the
first performance and the revealing
enthusiasm and Gilbert and Sullivan
traditionalism that captured the imagi-
nation of the Hebraic audience is among
the creditable Israeli achievements.
Shelley Kleiman, writing the review
of the Mikado performance, provides this
enthusiastically revealing background:
Two hours before the curtain
is scheduled to rise at Tel Aviv's
Nahmani Hall, it seems inevitable
the performance will fall flat on
its face. Actors, some in costume,
some not, their faces only par-
tially made-up, are singing off
key, laughing nervously at their
own mistakes. One stands to the
side nonchalantly munching on a
carrot; another takes center stage
with a falafel•filled pita in his
bands. Problems with the
amplifier and lighting still have
to be resolved when someone
yells that the show is almost sold
out. The director is grim-faced,
the choreographer tightlipped,
But the show goes on, and
when the curtain rises on the
Light Opera Group of the Negev's
production of Gilbert and Sulli•

van's The Mikado, the audience
would never suspectthe
backstage premonitions of disas-
ter. From the opening number,
"If You Want to Know Who We
Are," through all the familiar
scenes and songs, the production
is fresh and exciting. It was hard
to tell who had a better time, the
audience or the company.
When the curtain falls, the
performers slip back easily into
their day-time roles. Ko-Ko, the
Lord High Executioner, will re-
turn to his medical practice; the
Mikado will go back to the judi-
cial bench, and Nanki-Poo, who
gets to marry Yum-Yum after all,
will resume his job as a social
worker. There are teachers and
students in the group, a hotel
administrator and a biologist, as
well as a handful of professional
singers and actors. Comprised of
both Israelis and new immig-
rants, the majority of whom are
from English-speaking countries,
this amateur company has been
called by one member "an ab-
sorption center on stage."
There are these additionally reveal-
ing comments in the Shelley Kleiman
review that are worth noting:
The group's musical accom-
paniment is limited at present to
one piano, but producer Sharona
Tel-Oren dreams of the day when
they can hire an orchestra. That
time may be long in coming as
lack of funding remains the
group's most gnawing concern

What the team lacks in its
coffers is more than made up for
in enthusiasm. The group is
entirely voluntary, and members
pride themselves on being, as
Tel-Oren puts it, "lunatics, glut-
tons for punishment."

The enthusiasm thus generated also
provides a sense of satisfaction for
encouragement of cultural undertakings
in Israel by the Zionist Organization of
America (ZOA). When the Mikado was
first staged in Beersheba and Omer, the
ZOA invited the group to Tel Aviv, Simi-
lar encouragement was given by the
Association of Americans and Canadians
in Israel, which invited the troupe to
perform in Jerusalem. That's when the
Light Opera Group of the Negev became
a national product in Israel and may
now be expected to show its talents
elsewhere, hopefully, in time, in the
United States.

That is how culturally cooperative
tasks develop on a global Jewish basis.
They overshadow philanthropy and help
remove the economic and military fears.

Proselytising: Menace
In The Face Of Fear

Proselytizing has often been cause
for serious concern. It predominated
where poverty prevailed.
Many decades ago, there was
genuine fear of the proselytizers in the
Holy Land. Many of the returnees to the
ancient homeland lived from hand to
mouth, the children had no shoes and
suffered from malnourishment. Under
such conditions, the proselytizer had the
means to tempt.
The fact is that even when children
went to strange houses of worship, it was
only for the food and the clothing, and
then there was a return to the tradi-
tional Jewish home. But when there
were losses to the religious tempters,
they were always so minimal that
exaggerating them was ridiculous.
In recent years, a few Jews in Israel
panicked when there was evidence of
proselytizing. They were the few and
they remain the few who panic.
Now, however, there is an expansion
of it. The Mormons have become more
visible in Jerusalem. They are establish•
ing study centers and the extremists
among the Jews are running amuck in
panic. They charge proselytizing. The
Mormons reply that in the nearly two
decades of cultural activities and histori•
cal research in the Holy Land not a
single Jew has been converted.
A serious differing view is already
entering the controversy with the warn.
ing by an anti-missionary Israel groP
that 2,000 Jewish women in Israel are
_
married to Arabs and that they have
total of close to 10,000 children. nue
this can and should cause concern, it
may well be treated as part of the Pry'
lem involving mixed marriages. If the
intermarriage rate can exceed 50 pisse0
in the United States and perhaps Witfr
'AO
cent in Scandinavian countries,
is
directions should fear take -- 0 1 2
massive in the Western countries or wo
minimal in Israel?
This is certainly cause for,
cern, but not for panic, As on $
scale, it demands etrengthsai
Jewish home influence sYgZ- 4,
and providing the proper sP
ance. Other wits the fecit is not
*
iting non-Jewish elements in TO
neighbors of Jews everywhere,

,

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