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February 03, 1989 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-03

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PURELY COMMENTARY

Ecumenism: The Wiesel-Rittner Leadership

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

E

cumenism is the symbol for
religious cooperation and respect
for the faithful of all
denominations.
When the National Conference of
Christians and Jews was organized six
decades ago, the week of Washington's
birthday was designated for the annual
good will observance. There was a
special need at the time to decry racial
discrimination, to create friendship
among citizens, to repudiate every
vestige of hatred among neighbors. The
Detroit Round Table of the NCCJ was
among the major organized groups in
these efforts.
Now, ecumenism is such an effort on
a larger scale. It is not limited to a
week, even with Washington's birthday
as a special period for such emphasis.
It is the year-round effort for uninter-
rupted creativity in respect among all
faiths.
Under the direction of Dr. James
Lyons, the Ecumenical Institute for
Jewish Christian Studies has registered
an acceptance of basic principles by
every representative religious group in
this state.
Especially stimulating in this
report is the devotion of the current
issue of America, the journal publish-
ed by the Jesuits of this country, deal-

Elie Wiesel

ing with the dedicated views of Elie
Wiesel, the 1986 winner of the Nobel
Peace Prize. If it were only Wiesel, the
ideals discussed would not be complete.
It is the participation of many admir-
ing movements and their honors for
Wiesel that are important here. Of
significance are the lengthy interviews
with him by Carol Rittner that add
value to the ecumenical tests in the
issue.
Dr. Carol Rittner, formerly on the

professorial staff of Mercy College in
Detroit, is now the director of the Elie
Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, head-
quartered in New York. It is a national
post that followed her many years of
courageous advocacy of justice for all
regardless of their religious affiliations.
She has to her credit many services to
the causes that are dedicated to the
elimination of hatred and racism. She
is a staunch supporter of Zionism, a
defender of Israel and a staunch resister
of all evidences of anti-Semitism.
In her interview with Wiesel in the
special November 1988 issue of America
she wrote:
Born on Sept. 30, 1928, in-
Sighet, Romania, Elie Wiesel is
no ordinary writer. A survivor
of the Holocaust, he stands in
the place of his experience, yet
never seems to lose faith in God,
in decency or in the human ef-
fort to build a more humane
world for all people.
His hard-won faith, fashion-
ed out of his experience of the
Holocaust, is one of this cen-
tury's great acts of faith. While
Wiesel rejects the very notion of
"God is dead," he challenges
Jews and non-Jews alike to con-
front the real difficulty, which
he maintains is not to live in a
world without God, but to
choose to live in a world with

God, even while facing the evil,
the suffer-ling and the mystery of
the Holocaust.
When he was given the 1986
Nobel Peace Prize, Egil Aarvik,
chairman of the Norwegian
Nobel Committee, called Wiesel
"a witness for truth and justice"
who has come from the abyss of
the death camps "as a
messenger to mankind — not
with a message of hate and
revenge but with one of
brotherhood and atonement .. .
In him we see a man who has
gone from utter humiliation to
become one of our most impor-
tant spiritual leaders and
guides?'
In a time when spiritual
authority is often ineffective or
called into question, Elie
Wiesel's reconstructed belief in
God, humanity and the future —
in spite of the past — is a source
of inspiration to Jews and Chris-
tians all over the world. Con-
vinced that "humanity's fate is
not sealed; that everything is
still possible,' he is equally con-
vinced that "it is up to human
beings to build on the ruins,
with the ruins, a hearth, a
shelter, a dwelling in which life
will be celebrated and not pro-
Continued on Page 40

Abusive Lexicography Altered To 'Vulgarism'

I

nsulting references to Jews in the
Concise Oxford Dictionary remain
unaltered in spite of an announce-
ment made in London last month.
Jewish scholars and world Jewish
movements have been registering pro-
tests against some of the definitions for
many years.
The two definitions that have ap-
peared in this important dictionary un-
til now were: "Jew: person of Hebrew
descent; person whose religion is
Judaism." The second definition: "Per-
son who drives hard bargains, usurer."
The announcement about a change
states that the first definition will be re-
tained, and for the second there will be
a definition "derogatory" and will be
marked "R" for "racially offensive."
The new editorial explanation

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
(US PS 275-520) is published every Friday
with additional supplements the fourth
week of March, the fourth week of August
and the second week of November at
20300 Civic Center Drive, Southfield,
Michigan.

Second class postage paid at Southfield,
Michigan and additional mailing offices.

Postmaster: Send changes to:
DETROIT JEWISH NEWS, 20300 Civic
Center Drive, Suite 240, Southfield,
Michigan 48076

$26 per year
$33 per year out of state
60` single copy
Vol. XCIV No. 23
February 3, 1989

2

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1989

states that "the deeply offensive terms
That article appears as an impor-
"arose from historical associations of tant essay in Leonard's book Simon
Jews as money lenders in medieval Says, which was published to mark his
England."
80th birthday in 1984. He honored me
The latest comment on the protests by appending to it a special comment
came in answer to condemnations of the I made in Purely Commentary corn-
offensive terms by the Council of Chris- mending his efforts.
tians and Jews in England. In this
Of importance at the time was a
country protests were registered promise made that to offensive terms
against the offenses by the American will be added the explanation "vulgar,"
Jewish Committee, the Anti- meaning vulgarism. Leonard therefore
Defamation League, the Jewish appended to his syndicated article
Publication Society and other responsi- reprinted in Simon Says this postscript:
ble groups.
After this article was picked
The condemnations were inspired
up by the Jewish Telegraphic
by our deeply concerned fellow citizen,
Agency and appeared in several
Leonard N. Simons. He gained global
papers in the United States and
recognition for his efforts together with
Europe, concerned Jewish and
Marcus Shloimovitz, who instituted the
non-Jewish people and
protests in England and was a major
organizations wrote to the Ox-
leader in the aim of securing a correc-
ford University Press. The
tion of the insults.
American Jewish Committee
Leonard Simons commenced his
also urged some positive
campaign for fairness in 1948 when he
changes. When another edition
found, in the dictionary published by
of the Oxford illustrated Dic-
the Oxford University Press this defini-
tionary
appeared about a year
tion for "Moses": "Nickname of a
later, it contained many of the
Jewish money lender." He began his
changes recommended by the
search for definitions of "Jews" and in-
AJC. To those definitions con-
stituted his protests.
sidered to be unfair and in-
At my invitation, Leonard wrote a
sulting, were added the words of
definitive article entitled "Pejudices
explanation,
"vulgar or op-
and 'Vulgar' Definitions." I used it in
probrium?'
The Jewish News in December 1961.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency syn-
However, the viction was
dicated it and it appeared in Jewish
only partial. Only one of the
newspapers in this country, Canada and
several dictionaries published
other English-speaking countries.
by Oxford carried the changes.

Leonard Simons

Only the lexicographers who
edit the one volume had been
converted; the editors of the
other volumes remained to be
contacted.
The courageous role of Marcus
Shloimovitz in this lexicographical bat-
tle is a page of unusual interest in
literary history.
The late Marcus Shloimovitz was a
London textile merchant. He was
angered by the numerous insulting
definitions of "Jew" and unsuccessful-
Continued on Page 40

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