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September 11, 1987 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-09-11

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

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Religious

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I

"and don't care or understand
why Israel can't be a new
America, a copy of America.
It is superficial to think that
way. If Israel should be
another America, then why
live in Israel? They don't
understand that Israel needs
a strong national identity!"
He called for more mean-
ingful dialogue between
Israeli and American Jews,
such as the annual forums
sponsored by the World Young
Leadership Assembly.
Shcharansky is well aware
that he is the focus of intense
speculation about his own
religiosity, in view of the fact
that during his long im-
prisonment his wife, Avital,
became strictly observant.
But he is his own man and
seems completely comfortable
within himself. "I am a
secular Jew," he said, "though
to me I am a religious Jew in
my own way moving towards
God!'
He resents how people try
to interpret his inner feelings
from outward signs, like
whether or not he wears a
kippah. (He wore a kippah
when he spoke in the sanc-
tuary at Beth Tfiloh Syna-
gogue in Baltimore and dur-
ing his meeting with local
rabbis.) "When it becomes
necessary during my [spiritu-
al] progression to wear a kip-
pah, then I will," he says
simply, noting that his Or-
thodox friends , have never
pressured him to become
more observant though secu-
larists encourage him not to
"give in" and become Or-
thodox. "It is very sad," he
says.
Shcharansky adds that he
deplores "intolerance on both
sides" of the religious-secular
conflict in Israel, and feels
modern Orthodox Jews can
play a pacifying role.
A fiercely independent
man, Shcharansky has learn-
ed that it is difficult to work
within the organized Jewish
community while staying free
of organizational ties. He pays
his own way on trips to and
from America and has turned
down lucrative offers to speak
on behalf of major Jewish
organizations.
With little patience for nay-
sayers, Shcharansky plans to
protest the UN appearance of
Soviet Foreign Minister
Shevardnadze in New York on
Sept. 22, though it is just
before Rosh Hashanah and
Jewish professionals have
warned that many people will
not attend. "I say what better
way to start the new year
than to do something for one's
conscience?'
He is also critical of Jewish
organizations for "retreat-
ing" under the pressure of

Glasnost and for exhibiting
what he perceives as a reluc-
tance to criticize the USSR
for fear of appearing
unpopular.
He said it is vital that
American Jews continue to
visit refuseniks, to protest on
their behalf and to write let-
ters to them, whether or not
they receive feedback. "They
[the refuseniks] could not sur-
vive without your support!'
Shcharansky smiles when
asked about the rivalry bet-
ween two national organiza-
tions working on behalf of
Soviet Jewry, the National
Conference of Soviet Jewry
and the Union of Councils for
Soviet Jews. "When you
smuggle documents from the
Soviet Union to the West," he
said, "it seems you have to
smuggle two copies, one for
the National Conference and
one for the Union!' But he
said that while he does not af-
filiate with either, he works
with both. "I learned from
Avital not to take sides!'
Shcharansky has been
spending much of his time
these last months in Israel
writing his autobiography,
due to be published next fall.
He says he has no plans
beyond the book, though "I
must make a decision in the
next three or four months."
As for the writing of the book,
he calls it a liberating ex-
perience to describe his
prison years. "It is a relief to
write it down and, in a sense,
take it out of me. I needed to
write this book," he conclud-
ed, "to free myself."
G.R.

AJWS To Aid
Togo Farmers

Montreal (JTA) — President
Gnassingbe Eyadema of 'Ibgo
met Sept. 3, in Quebec City
wih Laurence Simon, presi-
dent of the American Jewish
World Service, to finalize
plans with AJWS for assist-
ance with the critical problem
of grain, storage in Togo.
The meeting with Eyadema
was the culmination of a
series of meetings between
Simon and Togolese officials
including, Foreign Minister
Yaovi Adodo and U.N. Am-
bassador Kwam Kauassi.
In those discussions, the
AJWS said, Adodo emphasiz-
ed his country's numerous
unsuccessful attempts at
decreasing post-harvest grain
losses which reach 40 percent
in good years and in poor
years can be as high as 60
percent. Simon travelled to
Quebec City at Eyadema's in-
vitation, where the president
was attending a meeting of
franco-phone nations.

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