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February 26, 1993 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-02-26

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amoufl aged By Comfort

Rabbi Avi Weiss delivers a message of warning and hope
at a recent Young Israel of Oak-Woods speech.


"We better
wake up."

abbi Avi Weiss came to
Young Israel of Oak-
Woods last week and
delivered a multi-faceted
warning that fragmenta-
tion and freedom are
camouflaging in comfort
the American Jewish
The national president
of Amcha—the Coalition
For Jewish Concerns,
said after his speech that
he feels he is "losing" his
"I have great universal
concerns about Jews," he
said. "I know that on
issues that are Jewish, I
want to feel tremendous
support. The challenge is
that no one can do it
alone. The challenge is to
galvanize the support in
the Jewish community. I
guess I'm known as a
person who gets his mes-
sage across in an unusu-
al way. Most people
know me from my work."
Rabbi Weiss is known
as the activist rabbi who

was openly critical of
President Ronald
Reagan's visit to a mili-
tary cemetery in Bitburg,
Germany, where former
Nazi soldiers are buried.
He made further
national news when he
protested the presence of
a convent at Auschwitz.
Since then, he has
become known as
Jonathan Pollard's per-
sonal rabbi and an out-
spoken voice during ris-
ing black and Jewish
tensions in New York.
"I don't really consider
myself an activist," he
said. "I just think people
should be more truthful
with one another. It is
disturbing to me that the
Vatican seems out to
Christianize the
Holocaust. This is hap-
pening before our eyes.
The Vatican, I feel, has
an agenda to build these
convents at the death
camps. It wants the
world to think that the

Holocaust was a Chris-
tian tragedy."
Rabbi Weiss also said
Jews need to do a better
job of educating them-
selves and their children.
He said Jews are drop-
ping out and dropping off
in tremendous numbers
to intermarriage and
"We've done so well in
exile," he said. "We're so
free that Jews who wish
to assimilate are wel-
come with opened arms.
And it's not that there's
rampant anti-Semitism
in America, but when it
happens, maybe it hap-
pens to the other guy.
Maybe, it's safer for
some to just turn away,
because they're safe by
not creating attention.
"I think assimilation is
the worst form of enemy
the Jewish people could
have. I think the only
way to fight the apathy
of our freedom is to make
it a priority. That's why
when a Jew is hurting,
any Jew, we need to
That work includes his
national effort to com-
mute the sentence of
Jonathan Pollard. He
called the sentencing of
Mr. Pollard, who was
convicted of giving U.S.
defense secrets to Israel,
a "perversion of American
He said that the gov-
ernment's inaction in
commuting Mr. Pollard's
sentence is symbolic of
what he sees as an
almost laid-back attitude
of American Jewry.
There isn't more outrage
because Jews are too
comfortable. Rabbi Weiss
said American Jews still
fear that they are being
judged as Americans and

as Jews. He wants Jew:
to speak out withou
On the issue of blacks
and Jews, Rabbi Weiss
said that the deteriorat
ing relationship, espe.
cially in New York
comes as a bit of person.
al irony, because his
hero in social action is
Martin Luther King Jr
The reality, he said, is.
that many adult Jews
and blacks don't reali3
know how Dr.
worked to achieve socia:
change, nor do the3
know how he worked tc
bring blacks and Jews
together. What saddens
him is that many blacks
and Jews also don't care.
Rabbi Weiss said that
Jews have a great deal tc
work on among them-
selves as well as with the
rest of the world. There
is too much "judging'
between Jewish denomi-
nations. He is concerned
that a move to a more
right-wing philosophy
within Orthodoxy - is
alienating centrist Jews.
"The larger world has
moved both religiously
and politically to the
right," he told the Oak-
Woods audience. "With
assimilation spiraling,
the knee-jerk reaction is
to move inward, to circle
the wagons and cut the
losses. It's absolutist and
comfortable, and there is
a sense, I believe erro-
neous, that modern
Orthodoxy is a compro-
mise, non-authentic
"At the same time," he
continued, "Conservative
Judaism is moving closer
to Reform which is i
grudgingly moving right.
My sense is that years
from now, the Conserva;


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