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September 06, 2002 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-09-06

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Pro And Con

open, said Mark Pelavin, associate director of the
Reform movement's Religious Action Center in
Washington. "We are not doing as good a job as we
need to in creating an atmosphere where discussion
can be as expansive as possible," he said. -
Esther Lederman, project director of UAHC's
"Seeking Peace, Pursuing Justice" project, which is
organizing the teach-in, said the goal is to provoke
about the conflict. But Reform leaders insist the
open conversation" about the Israeli-Palestinian
teach-in is meant to educate American Jews, many of
conflict in a setting that inspires respect and civility
— the synagogue.
whom feel confused about the complexities behind
the conflict, and to get Jews more engaged and active
To nudge the debate forward, organizers are send-
in helping Israel and the peace process.
ing synagogues a package of background material,
including opinion pieces from hawks, such as
Plans for Detroit area congregations are incomplete.
Rabbi Dannel Schwartz said Temple Shir Shalom
Binyamin Netanyahu and settler leader Yisrael
won't consider the proposal until after the High
Harel, to more liberal voices such as analyst Joseph
Holidays. Rabbi Norman Roman said Temple Kol
Alpher and Hirsh Goodman, the founding editor of
the Jerusalem Report.
Ami will participate, but is awaiting more informa-
tion from the UAHC before making definitive plans.
Part of the package focuses on Jewish settlements in
Rabbi Joseph Klein said Temple Emanu-El will
the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Using statistics gath-
ered by Americans for Peace Nov —
whose methodology often is criticized as
partisan — the packets show a 53 percent
growth in settlement housing since the
Oslo process began in 1993.
But Lederman and others insist they
are not framing the debate from the left
or hoping to shape a specific response.
The teach-in material reflects a broad
range of opinion, and reflects their mis-
— Rabbi Eric Yoffie sion to provoke debate.
Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, executive direc-
tor of ARZA-World Union —
Association of Reform Zionists of America, said there
have Israel education programs on Sept. 22 and 29
is a "deep intellectual, and even greater emotional
for the middle school grades in its religious school.
need" among Reform's 900 congregations and 1.5
million members "to receive information and deal
Opening Up
with and study events in Israel."
One of the forces propelling the teach-in, Reform
officials said, is a kind of American Jewish tribalism
"Everybody Wrong
that has set in.
At Temple B'nai Or in Morristown, N.J., one of the
Those concerns surfaced after the April 15 Israel
participating synagogues, congregants "are all over
Solidarity Rally in Washington, when Paul
the place, because there's valid moral points to be
Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, was
made on all sides," Rabbi Don Rossoff said.
booed for mentioning Palestinian suffering and the
need for compromise.
"You've got a situation where everybody was wrong.
The left was wrong in terms of misjudging Palestinian
Too often, debate about the Israeli-Palestinian
aspirations, which at this point are not to pursue
conflict descends to "the lowest common denomina-
peace, but to pursue a national liberation movement,"
tor" level, while in Israel itself discussion is far more

Reform movement sets teach-in to stimulate debate about Israel.


Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York City


he Reform movement is organizing a
nationwide teach-in to debate the Israeli-
Arab conflict and mobilize support for
Israel and the moribund peace process.
Called In Search of Peace and Security: A
National Teach-in on Israel," the push will also
launch a Reform campaign to deepen ties between
American and Israeli Reform Jews.
So far, nearly 300 Reform syna-
gogues across the United States and
Canada have committed to conducting
teach-ins either on the suggested date,
Sept. 29, or shortly thereafter.
Organizers said the teach-in, which
coincides with the two-year anniversary of
the Palestinian uprising, is meant to re-
open debate about the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict — a debate they say has been sti-
fled since the intifizda erupted.
'At a time when Israelis are getting
blown up in the streets, it does tend to
suppress criticism here, which I think is understand-
able," said Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations, the Reform
congregational umbrella group.
"But in the long term, \Are need those vibrant dis-
cussions. It's important to connect people if they feel
that they can't enter the discussion. The question is,
how do we emerge
0 from this morass we're in, and
how do we do it in a way that's consistent with
Jewish values?"
One path to Mideast peace the Reform movement
has long promoted, and continues to advocate with
the teach-in, is a two-state solution.
Critics of the teach-in say a public debate promotes
a Palestinian state in the face of Palestinian terrorism,
and is an unnecessary addition to public discussion


"At a time when Israelis are getting
blown up in the streets, it does
tend to suppress criticism here,
which I think is understandable,"

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