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June 13, 1986 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-06-13

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34

Friday, June 13, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

Israel's `Centrality'

Continued from Page 2

Shamir's question was highly re-
vealing of his generation's belief
that the Diaspora does not really
count and that Jewish life outside
Israel is not authentic. After all,
for the founding fathers of Israel,
so many of whom came out of the
ghettos of Eastern Europe, it is
difficult to accept that American
pluralism and tolerance will prove
real or lasting.
But for many younger Israelis,
who are attracted to America or
moving to America, this attitude
no longer holds true. The emigra-
tion statistics make that quite
clear. It is for them in particular
that America now poses a serious
ideological challenge. Zionism es-
sentially set out to provide a safe
haven for the Jews and at the
same time to widen the range of
experiences and occupations
available to them — to make them
"normal," so to speak, and a na-
tion like all others. But, as some
Israelis ask, what is the meaning
of this ideal when there is an
America over the horizon where a
Jew can be as safe, if not safer,
and as normal, if not more normal
— with almost the full range of
human opportunities open to
them.

Horror in the extremist ranks can be
anticipated over the labeling of some re-
grettable preskires in Israel as "sinful."
The Shamir remark quoted above makes
him the person to do the explaining.

There is much more that can be
labeled "sinful." There are the social is-
sues and they can not be ignored. We turn
to another aspect, often sensationalized in
the Village Voice by Nat Hentoff. He is the
frequent critic of Israel. He should not be
silenced when he makes these comments
in an introductory article in the Village
Voice, entitled "Second Class Jews in Is-
rael," which commences:
In 1981, the American-Israeli
Civil Liberties Coalition was
founded in the United States. In
the same year, its counterpart, Kol
Koreh ("The Summoning Voice")
was established in Israel.
As explained in their current
literature, the groups were formed
because most Israelis — espe-
cially today's youth — have never
been taught the nature and phi-
losophy of civil liberties. Many do
not understand the phrase `in-
alienable rights.' Journalists who
fight for a free press rarely see the
connection between that right and
freedom of religion or ethnic
equality. Israeli feminists may
mount a drive for sexual equality,
but not make the theoretical link
between their struggle and the
rights of Israeli Arabs."
In Israel, "because the basic

communities would lose an important
news medium and there would be a
blackout on news without our weeklies.
But it returns to an old canard, to a very
silly view that there is disproportionate
emphasis on social news in our newspap-
ers, that we sensationalize anti-
Semitism.
This is not only a pack of nonsense:
it is an indictment of American Jewry.
The fact is that if the English-Jewish
newspaper were to vanish there would
be more than a vacuum in Jewish life: it
would be a death blow to the most vital
instrument that links Jewish com-
munities and keeps the communities
themselves intact.
Even the smallest-in-size Jewish
newspaper, functioning in a community
with only a few thousand Jews, has
much to offer and renders a service com-
parable to the most impressive in Jewish
commitments.
There isn't a newspaper in America
— and I am not excepting the New York
Times, the Christian Science Monitor,
the Atlanta Constitution, and the scores
of other great daily newspapers — that
does not publish social news. Our cover-
age is proportionate to community re-
sponsibility. True: some papers are poor
in spirit and coverage, but one does not
denigrate a great instrument in Jewish
life, especially when it is the only means
of making American Jewry an informed
constituency.
The foundation of our newspapers is
in the world's first newspaper. The com-
mencement of world journalism will be
found in the 52nd chapter of Isaiah
whence I quote:
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of the messenger of good
tidings
That announceth peace.
— Isaiah 52:7
We are retracing the Feet of the Mes-
senger and together with our community
are building even better instruments for

Jewish knowledgeability.
In more than a quarter-million
homes in this country in which our
newspapers enter Every Friday it is we,
through the English-Jewish weeklies,
who attest to a unity that serves as an
incontestable force in American Jewry.
What we provide happens every Friday
— and if our synagogues could say it
about our Sabbaths they would become
mightier powers; because, with regard to
the totality of our religious life, the best
that our synagogues can say about ALL
Jews is that it happens a limited number
of times in our sacred portals.
The English-Jewish newspapers
are, today, the only living newspapers. A
former era has vanished. A great Yid-
dish newspaper history has nearly ended
— in tragic and regrettable fashion. Now
we, the formulators of the living Jewish
newspaper, come to you to remind you
that it is only through our media that
Jewish readers of all ages can be
reached, that only through our columns
is it possible to meet the communications
needs of the youth as well as their elders.
The living Jewish newspaper serves to
meet basic responsibilities in making
the proper approach to our position as
Americans who are sharing in a cultural
pluralism.
Many problems afflict American
Jews. They are not decreasing. At times
they are mounting. But whatever issues
may arise provide a need for proper
knowledge — so that we may understand
and appreciate our tasks of continuing
our functions as Jews within our ranks
and so that, externally, the truth about
ourselves and our relations with the out-
side world should not be misunderstood
and misinterpreted.
This means a press responsibility.
Without a responsible press we may sink
into an abyss of confusion. By creating a
strong Jewish press you assure security
for Jews and Jewish ideas. We expect
cooperation and we await a better
understanding for our press from Ameri-
can Jews.

Dr. David Hartman

theoretical and conceptual
framework is lacking, civil liber-
ties are not only imperiled; they
are all too frequently ignored. Kol
Koreh and the Coalition were
founded to put civil liberties and
democratic principles on the
agenda of the Israeli public.
Most Israelis define democ-
racy only as majority rule, with no
thought of protecting individual
or minority rights. For example, in
a recent poll, 40 per cent of the
country's youth voted `Yes' to
democracy, 'but only for the
Jews.' Our goal is to work with Is-
raelis striving to create an Israel
where this distinction will not be
made."
Whoever ignores this "indictment"
fails to serve the just purpose in dealing
with Israel. A nation founded on high
ethical goals can not submit to the aban-
donment of commitment to civil rights.
Hentof's Village Voice essay has de-
vastating revelations. Quoting a very re-
sponsible movement, the Van Leer Insti-
tute of Jerusalem, the Hentof article adds
the following:

A great deal more education
on civil liberties is needed in all
areas of Israeli society. For an-
other example, Amos Elon, in a

The Jewish Press

Continued from Page 2

Paul and Minneapolis and Columbus
and Worcester, Kansas City and Boston
— indeed, links with those in every nook
and corner in our own land with those of
Medinat Israel and with Asia and Africa
and Canada and Latin America.
How would we define The Living
Jewish Newspaper? It is a combination of
words and pictures, the portrayer of
people and events, the echo of joys and
sadnesses, the container of stories about
fundraising and generosity and about
learning and teaching, the record of
teachers and of rabbis. It is history and
commentary, fact and interpretation, the
home planner that provides recipes for
the women, cartoons for the children and
the grownups, the recollecter of historic
events for the entire community about
veterans, temples, synagogues and cen-
ters. It is the reproducer of happenings
that are gathered over the cables from
all parts of the globe.
I offer this capsule to enable me to
take exception to a so-called survey pub-
lished by the B'nai B'rith Magazine
which evaluates some of the English-
Jewish weeklies as being "uninspiring,"
"dull," "poorly written and edited and
with little or no influence in molding
Jewish community opinion."
This is farcical. It was compiled as if
there was an objective to criticize and
the fact-seekers could not deviate from
their intentions. It is similar to some at-
tempts that had been made time and
again by people with grudges to attack
the basic Jewish news-gatherer in the
world — the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
— even when it was fully recognized that
if ever_ the JTA services were to be di-
minished world Jewry would lose the
most important fusing force that keeps
world Jewry together through the in-
formation it imparts about Jews
everywhere. This, too, is the case with
the English-Jewish newspaper that has
just been maligned in a foolish survey.
This survey admits that fund-
raising would be less effective, that

But don't expect the newspapers to
perform miracles, to make the progress
envisioned, unless there is fullest sup-
port.
Unfortunately there is often in evi-
dence a silent boycott against the Jewish
press by big business among Jews. I
don't know what they fear: space in our
columns can help build up their
businesses. But big Jewish business has
shunned us. Thereby it has evaded a
serious responsibility to one of the most
vital instruments for Jewish survival.
There is a famous Mark Twain
story. The great humorist, while editing
a western newspaper, received this note
from one of his patrons:
"Dear Sir: When I opened my news-
paper this morning, there was a spider
inside; does this mean good luck or bad
for me?"
Mark Twain replied:
"Finding a spider in your paper did
not mean either good luck or bad for you.
The spider was merely looking to see
which merchants advertised, so that he
could go to the store of one who did not do
so, build his web over the door, and re-
main peaceful and undisturbed for the
rest of his days."
I hope this little story will help all
the publishers. My resort to a Mark
Twain witticism has special meaning in
our consideration of the status of the
English-Jewish press. If you are in-
different, a swan song that may lull us
into permanent oblivion in everything
we do and hope for in the Jewish com-
munity will follow the spinning of a web
by a spider who will settle in homes of
unconcern and indifference.
But by evidencing a devotion to your
newspaper, you also show a loyalty to
your community, you provide survival to
our faith and our people and you give
assurance to the realization of the
Prophecy of Habakkuk — Ve-Tzaddik
Be-Emunato Yikhyeh — the righteous
shall live by his faith.

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