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October 21, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-21

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New Jewish Agenda members
say if people understood the
group, they would love it


Staff Writer


hen members of Detroit's
New Jewish Agenda get
together, the talk invariab-
ly turns to the Middle
"Jews have been wearing blinders
when it comes to the Palestinians,"
says Ron Aronson, who co-chairs the
group's Mideast committee. "But we
are becoming more and more aware
that there is another people in the
country. The Arabs have to accept our
reality, absolutely. But we have to ac-
cept their reality"
New Jewish Agenda's call for
negotiations with the Palestine
Liberation Organization and the
group's support for a Palestinian state
in the administered territories are on-
ly two of several positions that place
the 8-year-old national organization
on the edge of the Jewish
Locally, Agenda participates ful-
ly in community forums like the
Jewish Community Council. But the
group's sympathy for Nicaragua's
Sandanista government, its call for a
nuclear weapons freeze and its cham-
pioning the rights of homosexuals
leave a sour taste in the mouths of
Some Jews look with suspicion at
what they perceive as a group of ag-
ing '60s activists and old-time leftists.
Critics say Agenda — whose Detroit
branch has about 100 members — is
out of step with the times, is anti-
Israel and soft on the PLO, and places
universal good will before Jewish
Agenda members answer that the
Jewish community is swinging
perilously to the right — away from
its proletarian and unionist
American roots. They say American



Ron Aronson: "The Arabs have to accept our reality. But we
have to accept their reality."

Jews have become fat, rich subur-
banites and have lost their social con-
sciousness. They say that Agenda's
universalist concerns will help the
Jewish people survive in an uncertain
world of shifting coalitions.
"We're honoring some real com-
mandments of Judaism," says Aron-
son, a professor of humanities at
Wayne State University. "The essence
of being a Jew is to pursue justice.
We're just following Hillel: 'Do not do
unto others . . . ' All the rest is
"We're most misunderstood," adds
Ed Pintzuk, a lecturer in history at
WSU. "If people knew us, they would
love us."
Aronson says it is painful to be
out of step with the rest of the Jewish
community. For him, though, it is
more important to be in step with "a
higher Jewish truth" that aims for a
pluralistic and progressive future.
"Today, there is a worship of
power," Aronson continues. "A feeling
of 'What's in it for us?' at election
time. And that 'What's in it for us?'
keeps narrowing."
Agenda members are concerned
about American Jewry's "total preoc-
cupation with Israel and its blind and
unwavering support" of the Jewish
state regardless of its actions, accor-
ding to Alvin Fishman, who heads
the Detroit Police Department's infor-
mation systems section.
Support for Israel's treatment of
the Palestinians betrays Jewish
values of justice and further isolates
the country in the international com-
munity, members say.
Some American Jews caution that
criticism of Israel can hurt the coun-
try. Agenda members like Marcia
Meisel, a real estate agent, say that

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