Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:
A Glowing Jewel
he Jewish community's A. Alfred
Taubman campus in Oak Park has
become a most vital asset in recent years.
Much of the credit for the renewed energy
goes to the central jewel of the campus: the Jimmy
Prentis Morris Building of the Jewish Community
Center of Metropolitan Detroit.
For most of its 43 years, JPM has been perceived,
and has served as, a senior citizens' center. It is often
overlooked because of its big brothers, first the JCC
at Meyers and Curtis in Detroit and now the D.
Dan and Betty Kahn Building of the JCC at Maple
and Drake in West Bloomfield.
But like The Little Engine That Could of children's
storybook fame, JPM just keeps chugging
along. And in the last 10 years, with a
major expansion and two .dramatic renova-
tions, JPM is playing an even larger role in
Jewish communal life.
JPM has become the staging point for a number
of highly acclaimed annual events, including the
JPM-Neighborhood Project summer concert series
held just behind the Center at Charlotte Rothstein
Park. The recent Israeli Scouts concert and the Ben
Yehudah Israel Shopping Expo are further proof of
Detroit Jewry's faith in JPM as a hub of the sur-
rounding Jewish community. With the new social
hall and new cafeteria this year, and the additions of
the health club and swimming pool in the last
decade, JPM has extended its reach beyond seniors
and preschoolers, and outside Oak Park
and the neighboring communities of
Southfield and Huntington Woods.
Arguably, JPM programming brings in
more Jewish seniors than any other non-
housing Jewish agency in the community.
But the JCC has further recognized the
vitality of the area and the resulting
demand for services by expanding JPM
offerings in recent years during two annu-
al events: the Jewish Book Fair and
Seminars for Adult Jewish Enrichment.
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit and the JCC board have some-
times led in the polishing of the
JPM jewel, and sometimes
they've responded to public
reminders that not all of the
Jewish community is moving further west
and northwest. JPM's vitality is a good
measuring stick of the strength and stay-
ing power of the Jewish community in
southeast Oakland County.
May the community that JPM serves,
and the agencies that control and shape
it, continue to recognize and build upon
the solid contributions of the staff at the
building that carries perhaps the most
tam [Jewish flavor] in metropolitan
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merican Jewish organizations obviously
would like all Americans to think well of
Israel. One way to do that is to present a
unified, positive message about the Jewish
state as it battles for a more secure future.
But such organizations should not be too quick to
endorse lock, stock and barrel the recommendations
of a public-opinion research team that has
been pushing a particular program in
recent meetings with groups that include
the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Council
for Public Affairs, the American Jewish Congress,
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and
the American Zionist Movement.
The team, citing surveys it conducted earlier this
year, urges a vigorous advertising and public rela-
tions campaign with a three-pronged message:
1. Making Israel special (Message: the only demo-
cratic country in the region).
2. Making the strategic association with the
United States (strongest ally, democracy and the
unacceptability of terrorism).
3. Demonstrating Israel's commitment to peace
(historic acceptance of a two-state solution and the
non-violent route to Palestinian state).
The team says the campaign is necessary because
its polling data show Americans' support for Israel
has waned as the Mideast violence drags on.
Americans now blame Israel as much as the
Palestinians and, while those who support Israel
outnumber Palestinian supporters 4 to 1, nearly half
of all Americans do not support either side.
The team's proposal — a domestic campaign, includ-
ing several million dollars worth of ads on CNN, Fox
News and MSNBC, to restore the historic
levels of American backing Israel — sounds
tacky. The state of Israel shouldn't be market-
ed as if it were a hamburger, a home-
improvement store or Disney World. It's one thing to
promote Israel as a tourist destination — which it clear-
ly isn't these days;.it's quite another to peddle it as some
sort of entity that deserves our national love.
Further, the three main talking points for the
campaign need to be refined. The first, Israel's com-
mitment to democracy, is a valid and effective argu-
ment, as is the point that it is fighting exactly the
same terrorism of 9-11.
But it is not clear that Israel really is eager for a peace
that would mean further major concessions to the
Palestinians and the Arab states. Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon has said repeatedly that he is not prepared
to make even the same deal that his predecessor, Ehud
Barak, offered two years ago to Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat at Camp David. An ad campaign that says one
thing when the government is saying another isn't
going to win many hearts and minds.
Further, while Israel is perfectly correct to refuse
to negotiate with leaders who embrace terrorism,
the Palestinians effectively blunt the proposed sell-
ing point by arguing that all they are doing is using
the few weapons they have to oppose "occupation."
As long as Israeli tanks have to enforce curfews in
the West Bank and Gaza to defend Israel's borders
against Palestinian terrorism, it's hard to maintain
that Israel is not in fact occupying Palestinian space,
and the ads become an exercise in futility.
The PR team is correct in saying that Israel needs
an effective campaign to mold American public opin-
ion. But it should be a long-term effort, built on edu-
cation at the school and college level, one that empha-
sizes the moral and intellectual history of the Jews and
Zionism, that reminds our young people of the his-
toric Arab intransigence and the superb accomplish-
ment of a democratic state in a region of tyrants.
America's enthusiastic alliance with Israel, built
over the last half century, may be changing some on
the margins, but it is not suddenly dissolving in
ways that demand short-term ad campaigns appro-
priate for a toothpaste that has lost market share.
Before handing over the money for the proposed
campaign, Jewish organizational leaders ought to
think carefully about whether they want to play on
the same turf as Bud Lite and Petsmart.