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July 15, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-07-15

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Community Views

Editor's Notebook

A Display Of Open Hatred
At Jerusalem's Yad Vashem

Temple Shir Shalom
Breaking Its Ground


If you march in a ground and Yad Vashem atten-
Gay Pride parade, dants and police tried to subdue
you're likely at and eject them.
some point to pass
Gersh and I were paralyzed.
Religious Right I wondered if this was what it
protestors holding was like during the war; that is,
up signs that sup- seeing something so unbelievable
, posedly quote the that you were utterly unable to
Bible, signs that respond. Should I leave? Should
say things like I leap down from the platform
"Death to Fags" or "God Hates onto the floor to make the demon-
strators stop? I was amazed at
But you don't have to march or the hatred I suddenly felt, wish-
even watch a Pride parade to con- ing I could silence those monsters
front the Religious Right's fervid of intolerance.
attack on gays and lesbians.
The ceremony went on. Even
Open up almost any newspa- after someone snatched pages
per; turn on the TV. There they from the hand of a rabbi chanti-
are, Christians writing or speak- ng "El Molei Rachamim."
ing in the most un-Christian way
We locked arms and sang
about sin, evil,
murder, invest-
ing gays and les-
bians with all the
loathsome dan-
ger and destruc-
tiveness that the
former Soviet
Union once sup-
posedly had.
Their rhetoric is
as vicious as the
rhetoric Nazis
against the Jews.
Imagine my
surprise and
shock when I
heard Jews talk
like this and at
Yad Vashem, a
place sacred for
all Jews.
I was there on Two gay men at the Yad Vashem ceremony in May.
May 30 to say
Kaddish for gay and lesbian Jews Hannah Senesh's "Eli, Eli,"
who had died in the Shoah. I was though more demonstrators
not alone. I was there with my shouted that we were defiling her
lifepartner Gersh and 150 other memory and her words — be-
gay and lesbian Jews, many of us cause we were gay.
children of Holocaust survivors.
I was profoundly ashamed
We had come from the United that Jews would attack other
States, Mexico, Argentina, and Jews in this way and in this
all over Europe and Israel. We place. But I was proud to be
stood in the Hall of Remem- there, supporting Israeli gays and
brance, whose floor bears the lesbians who are not yet as com-
names of concentration camps
that are seared into my family's
history: Maijdanek, Bergen-
Belsen, Stutthof. A family tree —
a tree of death.
All of us Jews were told we
didn't belong there.
A handful of hysterical demon-
strators — later identified as
members of Israel's banned right-
wing Kach Party — called us
"evil" and worse, accusing us of
blasphemy and desecrating the
Portable being public as many of
The ceremony went on in the us have grown to be in the Unit-
midst of chaos. Cameramen scur- ed States.
ried like cockroaches after the
Though stunned and appalled,
demonstrators as they shrieked, some are calling the melee Is-
tore their hair, rolled on the rael's "Stonewall" — an event
that brings gays and lesbians to
the center of public debate and
Lev Raphael is a free-lance
awareness in Israel.
writer and author.

Many Israeli
strongly condemned
the outrageous and
ugly behavior of the


News coverage in the United
States and even radio reports fo-
cused on the shouting and the ap-
parent violence, but they missed
the aftermath in Israel's media.
Many Israeli newspapers strong-
ly condemned the outrageous and
ugly behavior of the demonstra-
The Speaker of the Knesset ac-
cused them of fascist tactics in
trying to silence their opponents
and said that if some of these pro-
testors were survivors them-
selves, they had learned nothing
from their ordeal.
Most inspiring was the reac-
tion of fiery Knesset member
Yael Dayan, who made it very
clear that this attack on gays is


linked to other hatreds: of Arabs,
of secular Jews, of women.
Ms. Dayan wrote in the
Jerusalem Post that "anyone who
believed in (Israel's) future as an
egalitarian, democratic, humane
society, one which accepts those
who are different and supports
their rights as a minority, ought
to wear a pink triangle next to
the yellow star and blue and-
white emblem."
Ms. Dyan was the keynote
speaker at the European region-
al meeting of gay and lesbian
Jews in Israel which followed the
Yad Vashem ceremony. At Givat
Haviva, a conference center, she
spoke to us simply, but her words
were powerful.
She made it very clear that
those fanatics in Israel who ob-
jected to peace also objected to
human rights, that those people
suffered "an inability to under-
stand or accept the other."
Ms. Dayan said: "Your hurt is
my outrage; your tears give me
voice and strength." Every one of
us felt empowered and uplifted.
The hatred at Yad Vashem was
transformed into a warning, a
lesson, a message.


How many

times do we dri-
ve west along
Maple Road, get
stopped in traffic
at the light near
the gas station,
and peer behind
the restaurant,
checking to see if
it's still there? Must be force of
habit. Soon, this habit will be
Temple Shir Shalom, perhaps
the largest congregation in the
country to hold services in rent-
ed office building space, will be
on the way out of the back park-
ing lot in about a year.
Why at this time should we
be surprised?
This is the temple that start-
ed six years ago with Rabbi
Dannel Schwartz and 30 fami-
lies. Now, its 650 families are
projected to grow to better than
1,100 once the congregation
moves into its new facility.
There aren't many rabbis
who have spoken their dream
from the bimah and actually
seen it happen.
But Rabbi Schwartz has
made a career of making the
impossible dramatically pos-
sible. Review the above num-
bers and we're all hard-pressed
to find such growth.
Something is going very
right at Shir Shalom. When
Rabbi Schwartz told his con-
gregation in 1990, "Ani
ma'amin (I believe) that if we
can't build it all right, then we
should have the patience and
the wisdom not to build it all
right now. We should be will-
ing to design our building as a
whole, understanding its costs
and its plan as a whole and con-
structing it in stages. But be
proud of what we do rather
than just get it over with."
The rabbi and his congrega-
tion will leave the office building
behind the restaurant on Maple
at Orchard Lake Road in time for
Rosh Hashanah 5756, or the fall
of 1995. A symbolic move will
take place 4 p.m. Aug. 28 at
groundbreaking ceremonies
down Orchard Lake Road at Wal-
nut Lake Road. There is a rain
date of 7 p.m. Aug. 29.
The new Shir Shalom will be
30,000 square feet. It will be de-
signed to make 200-350 people
feel close to the bimah and the
rabbi as well, with possible ex-
pansion of up to 2,000 persons
with seats added to the sanc-
tuary from upstairs classrooms
and from a 400-seat social hall.
"The synagogue should be
constructed so that no one feels
too far from the rabbi, the
bimah or the Torah," Rabbi
Schwartz told his congregation.

The temple, designed by the
architectural firm of Neumann
and Smith, has its share of ap-
propriate symbolism as well.
The fact that classrooms sur-
round the sanctuary from the
upper level gives indication that
the temple's 350-child religious
school is symbolically sur-
rounding the Torah. It was de-
signed with the continuity of
the ages in mind.
There is one area that prob-
ably will find its way into the
controversial side of conversa-
tions. Rabbi Schwartz is known
as an inclusive Reform spiritu-
al leader in that he realizes that
the intermarriage rate is bet-
ter than 50 percent. He knows
that many of his families are in-
terfaith. It is his choice to in-
clude gentile family members
as part of the temple's extend-
ed family. Part of that choice is
an interfaith garden that will
be part of the new facility. In
the garden, families will be able
to memorialize anyone, re-
gardless of faith or background.
"I believe a temple should be
a place to laugh, to cry, to be
ourselves and yet still maintain
its holiness, its sanctity while
preserving warmth," the rab-
bi told his congregation.

"It takes

"This entire process has been
a validating experience for the
entire congregation," Rabbi
Schwartz would later say. "You
just can't say, let's have an ex-
pansion, let's build a building.
It takes a tremendous amount
of patience and delayed gratifi-
For us, it's a special event.
How many congregations have
started from nothing and
reached this level of growth?"
The rabbi knew going into
the construction of the new syn-
agogue that the building would
have to be open to the sensitiv-
ities of his congregation. It
couldn't, he said, just be four
walls and a roof.
Shir Shalom didn't go out to
imitate any existing designs of
religious buildings. It's even
considering building a baseball
diamond on the grounds, some-
thing it can share with its new
More important, Rabbi
Schwartz wanted a quiet place
for his congregation to gather,
to pray and to learn. When he
thinks of the temple's rapid rate
of growth and the needs the
congregation now demands, he
calls all of this "miraculous."
Seeing, in this case, is really

believing. ❑

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