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November 04, 1994 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-04

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

The Vote: Another
Example Of Continuity

There are good candidates, there are not so good
candidates. On page 29 of The Jewish News this
week are tables of candidates' biographic infor-
mation as well as the results of a survey on ed-
ucation conducted by the Jewish Council. It
behooves all of us to read these pages and use
them as an aid, a guide to help in our election
day decision. A correct decision is the message
we need to send to our capitals. But there's an-
other message as well.
Many of us have memories that are based on
election day. There's the electric excitement we
remember as our parents listened to the radio
for returns or stayed up past midnight switch-
ing channels for the latest results.
Jews have always had a proud and complete
accountability about understanding the impor-
tance of this American right or rite. This is a key
element on election day. We talk of the impor-
tance of our children watching us actually put
coins in a pushke, or write a check to a charity
or even volunteer with us. It's also important
that our children hear of our urgency in making
time to vote. Even if they cannot enter the booth
with you, try and take the youngsters to your

precinct. Let them take the literature of the park-
ing lot volunteers. Then let them stay up a little
later with you that night. It's not just an excuse
to avoid bedtime, it's an opportunity to feel and
experience a process of history that has made
the United States the continuing hope of free-
dom on this planet.
For Jews, who have issues of civil rights, anti-
Semitism, human freedoms and foreign aid pri-
orities for Israel, there is no alternative but to
vote. It is, in a sense, its own form of continuity
for our community.
On Tuesday, critical decisions will be made.
Names that have become familiar because of ad-
vertisements and lawn signs will now become
part of our households, even part of our Shab-
bat table conversations.
At a time when we are so sensitive about as-
similating into society, the election process is
something we should continue to be part of. Re-
publican or Democrat, our vote is not an act of
assimilation. By all means, it's an assurance that
in this country we can have the freedom to be

Saving Jerusalem

Jerusalem: the very word resonates deeply in
Jewish souls around the world. Its symbolism is
an important element in Jewish unity: A pow-
erful emotional connection to Jerusalem has
helped Jews overcome centuries of dispersion
and adversity.
But that same emotional attachment can be
a wedge between Israelis and Diaspora Jews
when it complicates the tough judgments Israeli
leaders have to make as they edge toward a gen-
uine peace with their Arab neighbors. Put sim-
ply, while American Jews have a strong interest
in the symbolism of Jerusalem and in the sites
that are a living part of Jews' heritage, they also
have a more limited role to play on questions in-
volving the Israeli capital's political disposition.
As do Israelis, we hope that Jerusalem will re-
main the eternal, undivided capital of the Jew-
ish state. But we should also understand that
Jerusalem is inextricably bound up in the com-
plex negotiations on which Israel's leaders are
ci) now staking their country's future.

Israel must decide when to push hard on the
issue ofJerusalem, and when to compromise. It
.(2. must decide how soon to allow the explosive is-
• L1J sue to be raised by the Palestinians, and how
will be handled at the negotiating table. Is-
,– it
rael's leaders are now concerned that raising the
cc issue ofJerusalem before the final status talks,
▪ slated to begin in a year and a half, only plays
Lu into the hands of Israeli and Palestinian oppo-
▪ nents of the peace process.
American Jews, by reacting emotionally to
each new example of posturing by Yassir Arafat,
make it harder for the Rabin government to


maintain a balanced, effective approach to the
peace process.
Inevitably, American policy affects the status
of Jerusalem. And that policy becomes a legiti-
mate target for American Jews. For example,
President Clinton's decision last week to cancel
his planned tour of Jerusalem's Old City because
of protests by Palestinian activists was disturb-
ing because of the message it conveyed about
Jerusalem's status.
But there is a certain wisdom to taking our
cues on these questions from Israeli leaders who
will have to live with the consequences of any
controversy we create from a safe distance. To
their credit, most American Jewish groups did
exactly that in the case of last week's presiden-
tial decision by reacting in a very subdued fash-
We should not relinquish our religious and
cultural attachment to this magical city. But we
also need to make an effort to allow
Israel's leaders to pursue their complex quest
for peace without unnecessary interference.
We should help educate Americans about the
centrality of Jerusalem to Israel and to Jews
everywhere. But we need to do this in close co-
ordination with an Israeli government that un-
derstands how Jerusalem fits into the intricate
web of relationships and negotiations it is weav-
We also need to develop trust that Israel's lead-
ers, more than anyone else, will not relinquish
Jerusalem's role as the spiritual capital of the
Jewish people.


Anti-Semitism? At Far
Greater Risk Is The Soul


The proliferation of well-funded
organizations dedicated to Jew-
ish defense would lead us to be-
lieve that the central challenge
facing American Jewry today is
Not so. At far greater risk is
the soul, not the body of Ameri-
can Jewry. To be sure, a soul
without a body cannot function
in this world; but a body without
a soul is a body without direction,
purpose or meaning.
Of course, there are pockets of
anti-Semitism in the United
States that must be confronted
head on, whether it's a white
David Duke or a black Louis Far-
rakhan. But we should recognize
that anti-Semitism is not om-
nipresent here. The spiraling in-
termarriage rate among
American Jews proves this point.
Throughout Jewish history,
whenever anti-Semitism pre-
vailed, the marriage of non-Jews
to Jews was verboten. In Amer-
ica today, we are so free that non-
Jews are marrying us in droves.
The late Professor Eliezer
Berkovitz was correct when he
said that, from a sociological per-
spective, a Jew is one whose
grandchildren are Jewish. The
painful reality is that large num-
bers of the grandchildren of to-
day's American Jews will not be
What is needed is a refocusing
of our priorities. This can be ac-
complished by transforming our
concept of Jewish defense into an
expression of Jewish spirituali-
When we defend Jews under
attack we should do so not only
as Americans demanding equal
rights, but as Jews who feel a
deep bond with those in our com-
munity who are in jeopardy.
To be sure, as Jews living in
America, we reject any attempt

Rabbi Avi Weiss is national
president of the Coalition for
Jewish Concerns - Amcha and
senior rabbi of the Hebrew
Institute of Riverdale.

by anyone to treat us as second-
class citizens. Thus, in response
to Pat Buchanan's accusations
that I am biased toward
Jonathan Pollard because of my
Jewishness, I replied in blunt
terms: "I am defending Jonathan
Pollard as an American. I am not
asking that Jonathan be treated
any better than other Americans,
but I will not allow him to be
treated any worse."
But of course, while we speak
as Americans, we above all raise
our voices as Jews, who feel a
unique connection, an emotion-
al connection to our people, yes,
to our larger family. It is what
Natan Sharansky, from the dun-
geons of Chistopol, described as
the "unity of souls." While alone,
he always felt an inextricable link
to Jews everywhere.

Education vs.
defense — the
funding pales.

This, then, is our first task. To
teach and act our Jewish defense
as one of the most fundamental
principles of Jewish spirituality
— Ahav at Yisrael — the infinite
and endless love of all Jews.
The second task is to recognize
that the essence of activism is to
ignite a Jewish spark. The ac-
tivist grounded exclusively in
physical defense — demonstra-
tions, rallies, protests, political
lobbying — doesn't understand
the true nature, essence and
higher purpose of activism. If I LT
am a Jew only to fight anti-Semi-
tism, that is negative Judaism.
If, however, I am a
Jew because I appreciate
Shabbat, I treasure the Jewish
laws of business ethics, and all
the laws and rituals that enno-
ble the life of the Jew and I de-
vote time to reading Jewish
books and Torah study — that is
positive Judaism.


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