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February 26, 1993 - Image 6

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

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

MokaLLy, i Rs. AN


Restoring Respect

Great Britain is having trouble justifying its
monarchy these days, and some in Israel are
questioning the moral authority of the chief
rabbinate, an office that combines politics and
religion in the Jewish state.
On Sunday, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and
Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron were chosen Chief
Ashkenazi and Chief Sephardi Rabbis, respec-
tively, for 10-year thrills. They face an uphill
battle in reviving a sense of respect for their
important offices.
During the vicious campaign leading up to
the rabbinical elections, there were public
charges of bribery, financial irregularities and
womanizing against various candidates, whom
former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren referred to
as "minor leaguers" in terms of Torah scholar-
The chief rabbinate, established during the
British Mandate, is the authority for Israeli
marriages and divorces and the supervision
of kosher food, but that authority does not go
unchallenged. Secular Jews resent what they

Why Jewish Survival?














consider the intrusion of religion on their per-
sonal lives; many Chasidic and non-Zionist
Orthodox Jews resent the rulings of an office of
the Zionist state they do not accept.
Politics plays a heavy hand in the chief
rabbinate. For many years the National Reli-
gious Party (NRP), which is staunchly Zion-
ist, controlled the rabbinate. But the NRP opted
not to join the Rabin-led government and the
Shas Party (associated with non-Zionist, very
Orthodox Sephardim), the only religious party
in the government, is now the dominant influ-
ence. How that may influence future relations
between religion and the state remains to be
What is dear, though, is that the new chief
rabbis must do all in their power to bring a l
moral, ethical voice to religion in Israel, whose(
image has suffered a real beating during the
nasty campaign. Last week, the outgoing chief
rabbis bemoaned the current state of affairs,
describing it as "not befitting the rabbis or the
rabbinate." To that we can only add, Amen. CI

so obvious that the question
itself is trivial: Institutions
do what they know how to
do, which is, by and large,
what they were doing yes-
terday. That is true even of
the L.A. federation, notwith-
standing the fact that over
the years, it has come up
with more than one impor-
tant innovation.
The more interesting and
by far the more important
question is what federations
around the country are
disposed to do about it.
No great surprise: The
evidence suggests that what
they propose to do about it is
to substitute a couple of new
words for the two that have
lost their compelling appeal
and to go on with business
pretty much as usual. The
language of crisis is alto-
gether too familiar, too in-
tegral to their world-view,
too abandon it. So if Israel is
less manifestly in crisis (oh,
for the good old days of war)
and the Holocaust now
becomes more a memory
than a motive, fill in the
blanks with other and more
voguish words.

iZST 11' ?



recent report on the
crisis of the Los
Angeles Jewish fed-
eration — some mill-
ions short of what they an-
ticipated in collections,
slashing operating and
agency budgets for the se-
cond time this year — con-
cludes with the following ob-
servation from a federation
"insider": "We are dealing
with a new generation that
no longer remembers the
Holocaust and which can't
remember when there
wasn't an Israel. We need
something to bring them to
identify with a Jewish com-
munity in a broader sense."
So what else is new? The
Torah of the organized corn-
munity has long stood on
two legs, Israel and the
Holocaust, and, for varied
and predicted reasons, both
are considerably less sturdy
than once they once were.
We might wonder why it
has taken so long for the in-
stitutional community to
wake to the institutional
and fiscal implications of the
weakening of its traditional
supports, but the answer is

is Wan'
VIE Ftssim
co st ?

Ladies and gentlemen, this
way to the emergency en-
trance: Intermarriage and
For those who are turned
principally inward, we have
the new and alarming data



on Jewish self-destruction
through intermarriage, the
evidence that our "I do's"
are spoken increasingly to
strangers and will, within a
generation, lead to a mass "I
won't" regarding Jewish af-
filiation, Jewish life.
And for those whose
antennae are pointed out-
ward, we have reports from
nearly everywhere of a rise
in anti-Semitism. You want
Germany? Here are the
skinheads. Here are the
best-sellers. You want
Russia? Here's Pamyat. You
want the good old U.S. of A?
Here's New York City, and
here's Farrakhan, et cetera
et cetera, ad nauseam.
In the nick of time, then,
we have lucked out. We re-
main partners in a voyage of
the damned; it's just that the
reefs that threaten to capsize
us have changed; no big
deal; a reef is a reef. By
whatever name, the threat
to Jewish survival remains
and that is the banner under
which we have learned to
march and under which we
shall ever continue to mar-
It all comes down to Jew-
ish survival, which is plainly
our collective obsession. It is
an obsession that derives
from our destabilizing
historical experience — and

that is encouraged and
tained by the myopic ti
ty of our institutions.
I say this not as an en
of Jewish survival, pe
the thought. I say this
cause of an absolute con
tion that if a people want

Survival is not
something to sta
for; survival is th
result of standin
for something.

stand, it must stand
something. Survival is
something to stand for; s
viv- al is the result of st
ding for something.
Until we can persuasiv
complete the followi
sentence, we shall be
trouble, and our survi
will remain iffy: "It is
portant that the Jews s
vive in order that ---
---." In order that wh
In order that we not dis
pear? But to say that is
say that we build our lives

a redundancy.

The sentence is not so t
ribly difficult to comple
nor is there only o
substantial way to compl
it. "In order to do God's wi
is one way. "In order to p
vide a sheltering comm
in an impersonal society"
another. My own, the on
believe most precisely
rives from the intersection
the Jewish tradition and t
American tradition, is "
order to help mend t
world, a task they a
assigned and for which th
texts and their memori
and their situation ha
prepared them."
But I don't insist that ma
is the "right" one, only th
we cannot build a wort
future on a foundation
perpetual emergenc
however the emergency
the moment be defined.
cannot, and we do not ne
to; there are better a
healthier ways — which, n
so incidentally, are al
more likely to improve t
odds on our survival.


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