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October 20, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-10-20

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The Price Of Dialogue

In his speech to the hundreds of thousands of
black men gathered in Washington on Monday,
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan asked
for dialogue with the Jewish groups that have
called him to task for his outrageously anti-Se-
mitic statements.
The Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Farrakhan's
chief antagonist in the Jewish world, quickly re-
jected that call.
Dialogue, said the ADL's Abraham Foxman,
is impossible until the black Muslim group stops
distributing anti-Semitic literature and its leader
repudiates his vile statements.
We would not expect black groups to embrace
organizations that promote racist views against
African Americans. But morally, talking is al-
ways better than shouting. Indeed, in his speech
on Monday, Mr. Farrakhan suggested that if Is-
rael can negotiate with Palestinian Liberation
Organization head Yassir Arafat, Jewish groups
can sit down with the Nation of Islam. This, how-
ever, misses the point that Mr. Arafat officially
repudiated the terrorism that made such dia-
logue anathema to most Israelis.
Nonetheless, as painful as it is, Jews and the
Nation of Islam should find ways to meet with
one another through more than just the glare of
the media. This might be done with an objective
third party providing neutral guidance. In the
past, it should be noted, there has been some re-

ception by Jewish leaders to Mr. Farrakhan's
push for meetings, which converges with his de-
sire for mainstream legitimacy. Sadly, the Na-
tion of Islam sought to bring publicity to these
efforts after previously agreeing to keep the mat-
ter private.
Our call for dialogue is not a clean slate for Mr.
Farrakhan's anti-Semitism. His remarks that
Jews are "bloodsuckers," his characterization of
Judaism as a gutter religion and the even more
offensive statements by some of his close associ-
ates make him a profoundly disturbing figure to


But Mr. Farrakhan, through a brilliantly
staged event that by any standard was wildly
successful, despite all his venomous ranting about
Jews, Catholics, gays and whites and his cock-
eyed conspiracy theories, emerges from Mon-
day's events with a new legitimacy as a
preeminent black leader.
Surely, Jews have more to lose than most
groups as America faces an unprecedented racial
crisis. We can turn our backs and fight on, or we
can recognize all that we have to gain by setting
aside our distrust for the moment and sitting
down to talk. If Mr. Farrakhan proves insincere
in his desire to listen as well as speak, we can
walk away from the table, knowing we've done
the right thing.
The world will be our witness.

The Hillel Foundation at Michi-
gan State University has finally
been identified by the Detroit
Jewish Federation as an agency
in need of a major overhaul.
Mazel Tov.
A Big Ten university with ap-
proximately 2,000 Jewish stu-
dents who are primarily from the
Detroit area needs a strong Hil-
lel. The leadership of the Jewish
communal world has identified
college students as a target cohort
for the disbursement of commu-
nity fund-raising dollars. I hope
our Detroit Federation is more se-
riously trying to align its priori-
ties with the conclusions of these
scholars and national Jewish
A graduate of Michigan State's
school of public policy, James
Madison College, I know first-
hand that the Jewish students
who attend Michigan State Uni-
versity are the sad statistics pro-
duced by Jewish social scientists
regarding identity and intermar-
riage. While there are success sto-
ries of marital endogamy and
while there is a cadre of super-in-
volved students who put on top-

istered similar complaints. I saw
with my own eyes hundreds of
"identity-challenged" Jews in
Jewish studies classes and at
Jewish fraternity parties. Each
week I would find out about a few
more Jews who seemed random-
ly to pop out of the woodwork.
I believe the focus of Hillel
needs to be on Jewish outreach
and education.
Jewish outreach does not
mean flowery and manipulative
programming, as some of my for-
mer professors who are content
with the Hillel at status quo have
implied. Jewish outreach even-
tually challenges Jews to ask
questions and to find reasons for
being Jewish. Outreach provides
educational "scaffolding" and non-
threatening points of entry to
those who seek it.
Paul Chen-in
West Bloomfield

Feeling Like
"Unwanted Child"


Finally Identifying
Needs At MSU Hillel


notch Jewish programs (within
the limits of their resources), it is
shocking to see how little has
been done to reach out to the Jew-
ish Detroiters at Michigan State.
Michael Brooks, director at U-
M's Hillel, said in last week's Jew-
ish News that students attend
U-M because of the Hillel on cam-
pus. While I'm not sure if this is
standard U-M hyperbole or if this
is what really happens, his state-
ment certainly is telling of the
Jewish state-of-affairs in Ann Ar-
bor. Michael has created a won-
derful program that provides
points of entry for a range of stu-
dents with different Jewish in-
terests and backgrounds.
At Michigan State, a facility
and a philosophy similar to
Michael's — on a scale appropri-
ate for the unique needs of the
MSU Jewish community — must
now become a reality.
When I took a course from de-
mographer Steven M. Cohen at
the Hebrew University, he told
me that philanthropists fre-
quently ask him where their mon-
ey will best help the Jewish
people. He answers them: (1)
campus Hillel foundations, (2)
day schools, and (3) scholarships
for Israel trips.
Michigan State has 13 colleges,

400 student organizations and
40,000 students. The Detroit Col-
lege of Law is now affiliated with
Michigan State, and is erecting a
$30,000,000 law building in the
heart of the East Lansing cam-
pus. More Jewish students, in-
cluding myself, will be on campus
as a result of this affiliation, and
the Jewish population will in-
crease as a disproportionate num-
ber of Jewish students continue
to enroll in the Eli Broad School
(business and management), the
Lyman-Briggs school (pre-med),
the James Madison College (pub-
lic policy), and the College of En-
gineering. The nearby Thomas
Cooley Law School is also a grow-
ing source of Jewish students.
Last year, I met a Jewish guy
from New Jersey whose major
was landscape architecture. He
was a member of a non-Jewish
fraternity, had a non-Jewish girl-
friend, and never once stepped
foot into Hillel. I brought him
home for Pesach, along with some
Jewish women from Brazil I'd
met. These women came to Michi-
gan State to study hotel and
restaurant management, and
they told me they didn't feel com-
fortable at Hillel.
I came into contact with dozens
of other Jewish students who reg-

Jennifer Finer's article "Repair-
ing State" (Oct. 13) about Feder-
ation reaching out to help
Michigan State Hillel probably
should have made me feel better
and less concerned about the sit-
uation here in East Lansing, but
it did not.
Yes, we at MSU Hillel felt like
an "unwanted child," and it was
nice to see more than just a few
lines about us, but Ms. Finer's ar-
ticle did not cover the whole sto-
ry. It is not just funds from
Detroit Federation that we seek,
but also the professional staff to
lead, advise and guide us.
When unfortunate crises oc-
cur, such as a fire, it is easier to
handle them with a strong, con-
cerned and experienced profes-
sional staff
It will be a big help to have
Metro Detroit's Miriam Stark-
man help us out once in a while,
but she has enough to do in De-
troit. We need a full-time leader.
I agree with U-M's Hillel's
Michael Brooks that students
don't choose to go to MSU for its
Jewish makeup, but that does not
mean that we don't have Jewish
needs that must be met by Hillel.
The newfound assistance from
Federation will help, but we need
more. I, along with other con-
cerned students, have been ded-


icating much time and effort to
getting MSU Hillel to where it
should be. But should we have to
endure the stress and headaches
to get Jewish students to come to
events and gain interest?
This is not a high-school youth
group. When can we stop doing
for Hillel and have Hillel do for
Jason A. Miller E
MSU Hillel Jewish
Student Organization Board


To borrow from the style ofJohn-
ny Cochran: "If the message is
hate, you must repudiate."
There can be no valid sub-
stantive content to the message
if the messenger advocates hate.
During the rise of Nazism, "mod-
erate" Jewish leaders initially
may have supported the message
(economic recovery, national
pride), if not the messenger
(Adolph Hitler). This watch-and-
wait attitude failed; in the end,
neither these moderate leaders
nor their followers received pref-
erential treatment.
Thus, our painfully recent his-
tory proves that there is peril in
waiting until the time "is right"
to speak out. Now, while Jews
(and other condemned groups)
can still speak and be heard, is
the time to unequivocally repu-
diate Louis Farrakhan and any
and all who heed his "message."
In a very real sense, we Jews
living in America today are the
survivors of the Holocaust. And
yet, our continued survival de-
mands our unceasing vigilance.
Jews should not need a "wake-up
call." But for those who do, the
phone is ringing.

Kenneth R. Marcus
West Bloomfield

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