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July 19, 1991 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-19

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


Why The Quiet Acceptance
Of 'Under The Cross' Article?



s anybody home in the
Jewish Community of De-
troit? Are we all asleep or
didn't anyone read the feature
article in the June 7 issue,
which The Jewish News even
splashed across the cover in
living color?
Is it perhaps that the com-
munity has grown so ac-
customed to the genre of
religious pieces that are
published almost weekly, that
no one even takes notice
anymore? I make reference to

Pinchas Franks is the "nom
de plume" of an employee of a
Federation-supported agency.
He states that his personal
opinions may not be in sync
with those of his employers
and, therefore, has requested

the article focusing on Jewish
students attending church-
run schools.
It is now a full month since
"Under The Cross" appeared.
Not a murmur has been
heard. Not a single word of
protest has shown up in the
"Letters" column from
anyone in the community
who will cry out over this
religious travesty. Doesn't
anybody care?
As a veteran of 18-plus
years in Jewish education, I
have seen clear proof of what
public education has done to
steer our young people away
from Jewish values and
Jewish tradition. So no one is
going to sell me a story that
claims that Jewish kids in
Catholic schools are unaf-
fected by their surroundings,
and by all of the subtle
religious nuances to which

they are exposed during their
academic pursuits.
The Talmud puts it so suc-
cinctly — it is not possible to
enter a spice shop, spend time,
and then leave, without any of
the aromas being absorbed by

The worn-out
comment that the
teens will become
(adequate) Jewish
adults sickens me
with its lack of

one's clothing and one's
I have no quarrel per se
with the young men and
women who were highlighted
in the article, and I will,
therefore, avoid referring to

them by name. They are what
the Talmud could call tinokot
shenishbu, youngsters who
were kidnapped and raised in
a foreign environment. They
cannot be held culpable for
their situation.

On the other hand, the
parents who sent their
children with their impres-
sionable minds into these
anti-Jewish environs have
probably violated the ancient
Molekh laws (Deuteronomy
18:10, Leviticus 18:21, Kings
II 23:10, Jeremiah 32:35).
One set of parents "rejected
Akiva and Yeshiva Gedolah
. . . as too traditional. At U. of
D. (their son) is free to concen-
trate on academics without
Let us understand these
comments without the veil of
verbiage which disguises
them. First, shouldn't "tradi-
tional" be read as "Jewish"?
Second, what distractions are
there in tradition-true high
schools that do not have

counterpart distractions for a
Jew in a Catholic setting?
The Yeshiva has bearded
rabbis (to convey guilt, I sup-
pose), and Akiva has Jewish
co-eds (to remind a young
man of his grandmother's
values?) Both schools promote
traditional Jewish practice
with emphasis on 'Ibrah study
and mitzvah observance.
I concede that if these two
pursuits are not high on the
parents' list of priorities (or if
they don't even appear on the
list), that can be starkly
distracting to a student's pur-
suit of secular academics!

As to the claim that a per-
son can become "a better
Jew" when surrounded by
crucifixes and "attending re-
quired theology classes and
occasional mases . . ." — I am
at an insanity-inducing loss
to comprehend how exposure
to Torah "traditional" values
were seen by these parents as
more dangerous to their
Continued on Page 12

Painting Swastikas With Spray Cans And With Words


Managing Editor


hen vandals last
week spray-painted
their hateful desires
to kill Jews at one of the new
1-696 deck playgrounds in
Oak Park, we received several
callls from community
The calls amounted to re-
quests to downplay our
coverage and keep negative
publicity about the incident
out of the public eye.
I remember at age 6 seeing
a swastika on a television
program. A few weeks later,
a can of my father's green
paint in my hand, I painted a
small swastika on the
sidewalk outside my front
door. I didn't know what it
stood for, only that it was
something bad.
When my father came
home from work and saw
what I had done, he was ter-
ribly upset and hurt. This
wasn't the sort of paint that
washed away, so he marked
over the swastika with the
same green paint, leaving a
circle the size of a pie plate
on our sidewalk. It stayed
there through many seasons.
It was there after we moved.
And now, some 30 years
later, it's still there as far as
my memory is concerned.
A swastika is a horrible
symbol of what we'd all like
to forget, but we all sorely
need to remember. A rabbi, a
mentor of mine, once said

during a Sabbath class that
Jews in America are living
in an age of enlightenment
and freedom that our pre-
Holocaust European_genera-
tions never experienced. But
while Jews are free to be
Jews here in the United
States, he said, that freedom
has its own danger: an
astronomical rate of
assimilation and intermar-
riage that in itself threatens
the core of Judaism.
Even if Judaism has no
part of a Jew's day-to-day or
holiday life, a swastika tells
us that we are different be-
cause we are Jews.
At what point is the pain-
ting of a swastika a hate
crime by some pro-Nazi
organization or a prank by a
group of insensitive
teen-agers? Where do we as a
newspaper draw the line? Do
we cover the painting of a
swastika every time it
happens? Do we dismiss it?
Or do we spend more time
investigating the vandalism
and then write a story if it
proves to be an honest-to-
goodness hate crime, and not
some kids with nothing
better to do?
Five or six years ago, a
synagogue in the Silver Spr-
ing, Md., area was vandaliz-
ed with such meticulous care
and detail that everyone was
sure the work was done by a
skinhead group or white
supremacist organization.
There were the words "death
to the Jude," complete with
spray-painted drawings of

ovens and the Nazi eagle
with talons holding a
The synagogue left the
drawings up for weeks for
everyone in the community
to see. It brought the entire
community together, as
Christian churches and gen-
tile neighbors rallied
alongside the congregation
to help. Every television
mini-cam and newspaper
reporter in the Washington-
Baltimore area played out
the vandalism.
The crime was committed
by two or three local teen-
agers. They were not Nazi
skinheads. This was their
idea of a prank.
I believe that in many
cases the person painting a
swastika is using it as a
uniform indication of anger.
He knows it represents
something not only anti-
Semitic but anti-society. So
if he is upset at the Repub-
licans, he draws a swastika.
If he is anti-black, he draws
a swastika. There are prob-
ably Jews who have painted
swastikas when they are
angry at other Jews.
The swastika painting on
the Oak Park playground
was a legitimate news story.
Here was a brand-new gor-
geous play facility all set
to open behind the Jewish
Community Center in a
largely Orthodox neighbor-
hood. Like a blemish on the
face of an otherwise smooth
skin, the spray painted hate
stood out.

No, we're not going to
write a story each time
someone spray-paints a street
sign or maybe not even when
a swastika appears on a
Jewish facility. Hating is too
easy these days. So is spray-
Our role, however, is to
report the news of hate
crimes or anti-Semitic
pranks when they evoke an
irony, when it brings in
other possible community

relations conflicts such as
black-Jewish or even Arab-
Jewish tension.
If spray-painting was the
Jewish community's biggest
challenge, we'd be in great
shape. But the truth is that
more swastikas are
"painted" by word of mouth
than by aerosol cans. The
Rev. Louis Farrakhan has
sprayed us with his rhetoric
many times, even referring
to Judaism as a "gutter re-
ligion" and Hitler as
"great." The Rev. Jesse
Jackson's famous
"Hymietown" remark comes
to mind as well.
As Jews, however, we have

to remember that we can't
be self-righteous. We hurl
our own swastikas. How
many of us still use the word
shvartze to refer to a black
person? That's a swastika.
During the Persian Gulf
war, Chaldeans and Arab-
Americans, men and women
who like Jews came to this
country for economic and so-
cial ideals, found themselves
singled out and in some
cases threatened by the gen-
eral public. That's also a
Recently, white youths
threw rocks at a black police
officer and called him
names. A swastika.
As thinking human be-
ings, our job is to 'fess up to
our swastikas. I believe
swastikas are shortcomings
against the way we've been
taught to live with peace and
respect among each other. If
you are Jewish and your
only reason for moving out of
a neighborhood is because a
black family moved in next
door, don't bother putting a
"For Sale" sign on your
frontyard. Go ahead and get
a can of spray paint.
We're not writing a story
each time someone moves
out of town to avoid a black
family. But like the
swastika on the playground,
we'll write when we see that
there is a deeper impact;
that there is, if you will, a
story behind the story, be it
anti-Semitism or racism.
The swastika for us is only
a place to begin. ❑

:1.1 •

..... 11.11.

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