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November 28, 1986 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-11-28

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

LIMITED TIME

TORAH PORTION

FREE

ONE YEAR
MEMBERSHIP

A Contradictor y As p ect
Of Jewish History

\ RABBI IRWIN GRONER

- Special to The Jewish News

his week's sidrah re-
counts how Abraham
comes to bury his be-
loved Sarah. He negotiates
with the people Hebron for a
plot of land to be consecrated
as the resting place of his be-
loved.
After the preliminaries,
Ephron, the owner, asks,
"What does 400 shekels mat-
ter between you and me? Is
this 'really an important
• thing amongst friends?" And
Abraham then knows what
price has been set.
Abraham, in accepting this
requirement, responds, "I am
both stranger and sojourner

Shabbat Chaye
Sarah:
Genesis
23:1-25:18;
I Kings 1:1-31

among you, a resident and
one who is simply passing
through."
This is a strange combina-
>tion of words. What does Ab-
raham mean by combining
the two contradictory defini-
tions?
One commentator on the
Bible suggests that we view
this in the light of Jewish
experience in which this con-
tradiction, which cannot be
resolved in logic, was actu-
ally lived in centuries of
Jewish History.
• Since the loss of Jewish in-
dependence in the first cen-
tury of the common era, the
history of the Jewish people
has been a story of a minor-
ity living in many lands
amidst many cultures, seek-
ing to be at home, and yet
being denied that privilege,
thus living with the recogni-
tion that to some degree, they
were aliens.
In Christian Europe of the
Middle Ages, Judaism was
the only tolerated minority
eligion. But, at the same
time, we know that this ac-
ceptance, which may have
lasted for hundreds of years,
-could suddenly be challenged
in a time of crisis or social
-upheaval. When anti-Semitic
violence erupted, the Jew was
he object of such rage that
he was forced to pull up roots
and seek another land, an-
other home.
The uniqueness of Jewish
history is not that Jews lived
in so many different coun-
tries. The ultimate wonder is
that the Jew never lost his
profound desire to be a resi-
dent, to be profoundly at-
tached to the country in

Irwin Groner is rabbi at
Cong. Shaarey Zedek.

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which he lived. He should
have responded with distrust
and denial to the societies in.
which he settled. This is the
opposite of the truth. He.
longed for acceptance, he
sought to prove his loyalty
and patriotism to a degree
not usually found among the
masses. Yet, the tension was
never resolved. He was a
stranger and an inhabitant,
he was at home but knew
that he could be subject to
the fate of the wanderer.
For Jews, America was
different. Because the United
States was founded on the
principles of freedom, equal-
ity and the democratic proc-
ess, the Jew, from the very
beginning of his experience,
felt himself accepted as a
citizen, as an integral part of
this national community. If
there were anti-Semitic
episodes or conditions which
he encountered in the New
World, he believed, that as he
integrated himself into the
life of this society, learned its
skills, demonstrated his corn-
-petence and strove for
achievement, he could estab-
lish a life of security for him-
self and his children. The ac-
complishments of American
Jews have given abundant
evidence that this belief was
well-founded. There has been
a remarkable influx of Jews
into the professions, the
natural and social sciences,
the academic community and
the business world. No less
remarkable is. the conspicu-
ousness of Jews today in the
media and the arts.
Under these circumstances,
it may seem not only difficult
to think about anti-Semitism,
but intellectually embarras-
sing, as though one is
thereby demonstrating a
ghetto mentality that is in-
appropriate to be the free,
open and democratic spirit of
America.
However, if one thinks for
very long about this subject,
he must begin to recall the
Jews of medieval Granada, or
in this century, the Jews of
Berlin, Vienna and Budapest,
whose prominence in the so-
cial, intellectual and cultural
life of those societies resem-
bles greatly the position of
America Jews today: What-
ever Jewish history testifies,
one truth is repeated inces-
santly. Acceptance, or even
toleration, is by no means an
irreversible process, nor does
prominence necessarily mean
genuine security.
Anti-Semitism in America
is not a serious problem. But
it would be naive to ignore
its existence. It can be found
in the upper strata of society
in subtle forms of discrimina-
tion, such as Jewish exclu-
sion from the private clubs of
the gentile elite. Sometimes,
anti-Semitic echoes can be
heard in the statements of
those demagogues who seek
to win the support of the less

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