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January 20, 1989 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-01-20

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Continued from Page 2

about religion. It is not about
tradition. It is about power. And
politics. Those who want the law
changed, I truly believe, do so
out of a conviction that it is what
God wants. I cannot fault them
for that. But they alsO believe
that Israel should not just be a
Jewish state, but a religious
state, a theocracy, where their
opinions and definitions are the
ones that count. Those people
should not be confused with Or-
thodoxy, the majority of whom
do not favor amending the Law
of Return.
Taking into account the interpretive
viewpoint of a Reform rabbi on the
dispute that was generated not only by
Israeli extreme Orthodox but also by
those who fanned its extremism in this
country provides an opportunity to
recall the family background of the
author as a path toward understanding
an aspect involved in mixed marriages,
one of the elements in "Who is a Jew."
Rabbi Steven Kushner's explanation of
his grandmother's devotion is confirm-
ed in the entire Kushner family's
The grandmother of Rabbis Steven
and Lawrence Kushner, Emogene Ed-
wards, was known to all of us who were
acquainted with her and her husband
as genuine loyalists. She was welcom-
ed into the Jewish fold on Jan. 1, 1905.
The witnesses to her conversion were
two well known Detroiters, Adolph
Freund who became a national leader
in the Independent Order of B'nai
B'rith as "Daddy Freund," and Samuel
Summerfield. Freund was highly
regarded in religious and B'nai B'rith
circles and as a leader in Pisgah Lodge,
then the only B'nai B'rith lodge in
Detroit. Summerfield was prominent in
the furniture business as senior
member of the Summerfield-Hecht
Emogene's husband, whom she
married upon entering Jewish ranks,
was Max Edwards. He, too, was a B'nai
B'rith activist. His major Detroit role
was as lecturer on Jewish history and
religious subjects.
The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Max
Edwards, Miriam Kushner, is the na-
tionally recognized archivist of Thmple
Beth El. She succeeded the late Irving
Katz in that role as curator not only of
Beth El records, but of accumulated
Michigan and national Jewish
documentaries. She gained national
recognition for her activities here.
Her husband, the late Aid Kushner,
established an important reputation for
reproducing replicas of synagogues.
They included many locally, all of Beth
El's earliest, and of a number of world
synagogues. Some of his creative results
are in important museums.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner has
established a reputation as a student of
mysticism and has written several
books on the subject.
Such is the record of a family with
a commendable Jewish activism, whose
scion came from a non-Jewish
Rabbi Steven Kushner did well to
refer to his grand-maternal source as
means of determining "Who is a Jew."
The declaration welcoming



Emogene to the Jewish faith, written in
longhand by Rabbi Franklin and
presented to her at the public ceremony
in the Temple Beth El sanctuary at
Woodward and Eliot in downtown
Detroit, is a genuine relic in the
historical archives.
- Emogene thus became one of the
proselytes, the Hebrew term for which
is Gerim.
The family record commencing with
Max and Emogene Edwards and conti-
nuing with the Kushners has a con-
tinuity of interest for Detroiters of three

Goals And Added


ne memory of the embittered
1988 political campaign carries
with it a bit of sadness. Can we
"card carrying liberals" continue with
determination to strive for the highest
means to raise the standards of living
for this nation? _
The liberal is not a quitter. Neither
is the conservative. Therefore the aim
to reach the best out of whatever
disputes may ensue ideologically in our
American way of life. ,
In both the American and the
Israeli elections there were reverbera-
tionS of liberal-conservative confronta-
tions. The evidence on a global fashion
is of an increase in conservatism. In this
country, it was a conservative triumph.
In Israel, while a final decision is yet
to be resolved, the conservatism of the
right-wingers may succeed, although
there it is more a matter of a minority,
and a comparatively small one, com-
manding a balance of power.
It is worth noting for the record that
in both instances it is the ultra-
Orthodox who dominate conservative-
ly. As has been arrived at, the Jewish
vote was still predominately liberal in
the. American election. The increased
Republican Jewish vote was in the Or-
thodox constituancy. Der Algemeiner
Journal, the Yiddish weekly published
in Brooklyn, N.Y., now perhaps among
the major competitors of the Forward,
gave continuing evidence of antagonism
to the liberals and supported vehement-
ly the campaign for George Bush for
president. This weekly newspaper also
gave evidence of support for the ultra-
Orthodox in Israel.
The week after the election. in
Israel, Der Algemeiner Journal carried
a headline that read "Hasidim
Beziegen Misnagdim in Yisroel,"
(Chasidim Conquer Their Opponents in
Israel") giving the impression that the
extreme Orthodox who had expected to
dominate over the Israel government as
a balance of power were certain to rule
over Israel. Noteworthy is the Journal's
partisanship in drawing upon the old
conflict over Chasidism. In the early
years of the emergence of the Chasidic
movement there was a strong viewpoint
against it and the opponents were the
"mitnagdim." The Vilan Gaon, Rabbi
Eliahu, (Eliahu ben Solomon Zalman
1720-1797), whose acronym was Ha-
GRA, was the chief mitnaged.
A direct Jewish intimacy with con-

servatism is now emphasized in an en-
tire volume on the subject. Allan J.
Steinberg, a new Jersey lawyer, has a
book on the subject of American Jewry
and Conservative Politics (Shapolsky
Books). It is subtitled "A New Direc-
tion" and is emphatic on all the aspects
that have been referred to in the view-
points of the political elements who
have degraded liberalism in the recent
Proving to be a good campaigner for
his ideological approach, Steinberg has
an occasional kind word for Jewish
identification with the liberal
movements. Nevertheless, he adheres to
the claim that "Jews have had voting
patterns that are at variance with those
of the general American public. That in
itself would not concern me except for
the fact that American- Jewish liberal
politicians have attempted to make
liberalism part of Jewish theology,
similar to the centrality of the Torah
and Talmud as a Jewish philosophy."
His aim in his book is to urge that
"the covenant between the American
Jewish community and American
liberalism must finally be severed."
The extremism of his views and his
ideological approaches will prove shock-
ing to the organized Jewish communal
forces when they read that Steinberg
goes so far as to affiliate himself with
those who approve of religious studies
in public schools. Thereby he negates
the estblished Jewish attitude and at-
tempts to destroy the basic American
principle of separation of church and
state. Here is his published view in his
Religious conceit is only
harmful — whether in Judaism
or Christianity — when such
religious conceit becomes
religious intolerance. I have
never heard Jerry Falwell in-
dicate any contempt or in-
tolerance for Judaism, in fact
quite the reverse.

Yet even among liberal Jews
who concede that Falwell and
his followers are not anti-
Semitic, there is a continuing
argument that if Falwell's pro-
gram is implemented, it will
have disastrous consequences
for American Jews. Let me state
at the outset that while I
disagree significantly with
Falwell on some issues, I hard-
ly believe that the enactment of
his proposals into law
represents the death knell of
American Jewish life.
As an example, take the issue
of prayer in the public schools.
While I oppose prayer in the
public schools if such prayers
are sectarian —that is to say, in-
voking the name of Jesus as a
deity — I do not believe that non-
sectarian prayers such as the
old New York Regent's prayer
have any real impact on our
children in the public schols,
positive or negative. Nor do I
feel that displays of the nativity
in public buildings are
necessarily offensive, as long as
they are not financed by the
public treasury.

The First Amendment of the
Bill of Rights was never meant
to preclude public display of
religious preference by political
leaders or the expression by
government of a general belief
in God (such as the printing of
the world "In God We Trust" on
coins and currency). Rather, it
was meant to prevent govern-
ment from discriminating in
favor of any particular religious
denomination, as former
Supreme Court Justice Potter
Stewart pointed out in a number
of key opinions.
As an American, I realize
that I live in a nation where the
overwhelming majority prac-
tices Christianity. I have no pro-
blem with the Christian majori-
ty in my nation having access to
public places for the exercise of
religion as long as I have the
same rights.
Furthermore, I have no pro-
blem with our elected officials
stressing their Christianity as a
motivating force in their politics,
as long as they do not express
intolerance for my religion and
people. I think that the reinstitu-
tion of Christian values in our
society and culture, without any
concomitant intolerance for
Judaism, is exactly what Rev.
Falwell is all about.
However, let us assume for
the moment the very worst
liberal -distortion of Falwell's
philosophy, i.e. let us assume
that Falwell really means to
reintroduce Christian prayers in
our public schools. I was
educated in a public school
where Christian prayers and
readings from the New Testa-
ment were recited every morn-
ing, and where Christmas
pageants were given every year.
While these prayers and
pageants made me uncomfor-
table, they did not have any per-
manent deleterious impact on
my life .. .

The issue of American sup-
port for the State of Israel is far
more important to me than the
issue of prayer in the public
schools. On this issue, with
whom do my liberal American
Jewish friends feel more comfor-
table — the Rev. Falwell or the
Revs. Jackson and Berrigan?

There is enough evidence here to in-
dicate to the fullest degree the ultra-
conservatism of this advocate of ac-
tivism against liberalism. The stand he
takes on the separation ideal is suffi-
cient to show opposition to viewpoints
on the subject that have had near
unanimous support in Jewish ranks in
all efforts to introduce religion in
schools and other public services.

Many liberals may be amused by
such attitudes just quoted. They may,
however, develop into a continuing
political debate in view of the attacks
on the card-carrying liberals in the
1988 presidential campaign. Therefore,
they cannot be ignored.



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