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November 15, 2002 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

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Pursuing Social Justice

Others look at the same population
figures and see impending disaster.
Tobin may see the 1.5 million peo-
ple who live alongside those who
identify themselves as Jews in 2.9
million households as Jewish by some
amorphous definition. But if a grow-
ing percentage of "Jews" are persons
who have only the loosest connection
to the rest of us, then what sort of a
community are we talking about?
How can a Jewish population that

is largely self-defining, has no Jewish
literacy, is cut off from synagogues
and often practicing other religions,
maintain Jewish institutions or a con-
nection with Israel?
It is true that encouraging conver-
sion and creating more ways for those
on the margins to enter into Jewish
communal life are important. But a
community that only defines itself by
its pluralism and lack of identifiable
boundaries is one that stands for
nothing and is doomed to failure.
The inreach-outreach debate is mean-
ingful because it is based in reality.
Though some pretend that Jewish
resources are infinite, the truth is,
they are not. Given the limited
amount of funds available, we cannot
possibly do both well. But since our
communal structures are set up to
avoid making tough decisions, we
have left ourselves with the worst of
both worlds: a Jewish core popula-
tion that is underserved and starved
of resources, and an unaffiliated
group that feels there are not enough
doors open for them.
By definition, such a choice means
making some people unhappy. But
we need to recognize that by not
choosing one path or the other, we
are making a third even more unfor-
tunate choice that will ensure that
future population surveys will bring
us even worse news. ❑

anti-Semitism, democracy and tyranny
— made it possible for the Protocols to
extend its insidious ideas to both rich
and poor, right and left, Christian and
Muslim, American and Japanese.
Its hold on the extreme right
prompted a hitherto cautious Adolf
Hitler to endorse the book, refer often
to it and make it both a centerpiece of
Nazi Jew-hatred and then a key argu-
ment in justifying his murder of six
million Jews. In the words of histori-
an Norman Cohn, the Protocols served
as the Nazis' "warrant for genocide."
The forgery has since polluted pub-
lic life wherever it appeared; as Italian
novelist Umberto Eco explains, it was
"self-generating; a blueprint that
migrated from one conspiracy to
The process still continues; this very
week, an Egyptian television station
begins airing a 41-part blockbuster
Ramadan special, Knight Without a
Horse spreading the Protocols, defama-
tion to a vast new audience and creat-

ing new legions of anti-Semites.
That a forgery that helped cause the
Holocaust is now openly published in
New Jersey points to two important
• Arab and Muslim institutional life
in the United States remains as radi-
calized after 9-11 as it was before.
• Arab and Muslim institutions are
now the primary advocates of anti-
Semitism worldwide, including in the
To prevent the Protocols from mak-
ing further inroads in the United
States, advertisers, James Zogby, and
the newspaper's printer must immedi-
ately and completely disassociate
themselves from the Arab Voice. In
addition, Arab and Muslim groups in.
the United States must explicitly
denounce the Protocols and condemn
all those who forward it, whether the
Arab Voice or Egyptian television.
Not to do so makes them complicit
in the prejudice and villainy of this
foul tract. ❑

"inreach" are now official policy, but
neither gets the support it needs.
Rather than taking a hard look at
the future, many of us prefer to take
the more optimistic numbers Gary
Tobin is selling and wrongly assume
that everything is fine.
It is no coincidence that Tobin is
also one of the most fervent support-
ers of outreach strategies. He and
others who agree with him paint a
picture of a Jewish future that will be
defined primarily by pluralism.
Normative Jewish life will, they say,
cease to be solely defined by the
existing structures, but rather, be
based on the infinite variety of Jewish
choices available.
Philanthropies and synagogues will
have to follow along with this trend,
they tell us, or be left behind.

Test Of Survival


to the Jewish state in order
he leaders of the
to alleviate the problem, I
American Jewish
suggest they do it wisely:
community meet next
direct money to projects
week in Philadelphia
and areas where it can real-
for their annual General
ly make a difference.
Assembly (GA). The theme of
this year's GA is " Tzedek,
tzedek tirdof justice, justice
Invest In Education
you must pursue"
A case in point is educa-
(Deuteronomy. 16, 20).
tion. Last week, the Israel
The organizers couldn't have
Co mmentary Democracy Institute held
picked a better theme for this
the ninth session of its
GA. Justice is probably the
ongoing effort to draft a constitu-
most important moral value in
tion for Israel. The issue at stake was
Judaism. In its broader sense, it is
whether to secure social rights in the
the divine design of the ideal world,
constitution or leave them in the
a goal Jews should aspire to reach.
public and political domain.
They also should be doing it by
Those who favored giving the
practicing the other meaning of jus-
poor and the old a constitutional
tice — tzedakah (righteous acts).
anchor argued that the government
Indeed, Jews have always excelled in
was not doing enough to reduce
being both sensitive to injustice and
gaps in the most important social
giving to the needy.
factor, namely education.
The participants of the GA also
Avi Ben-Bassat and Momi Dahan
should be aware of alarming devel-
of Hebrew University in Jerusalem
opments happening in the area of
presented a paper explaining why
social justice in the Jewish commu-
Israel's education budget isn't help-
nity soon to become the largest in
ing to close the gaps
in education:
. Schools are bud-
geted according to
teaching hours and
the quality of the
teachers. And since
most of the best
teachers work in
wealthier communi-
ties and neighbor-
hoods, a student
from these areas is
likely to receive more funding then
the world — Israel.
one in an underdeveloped area.
A report released earlier in
Furthermore, schools in the
November by the Israeli Social
wealthier areas are able to raise
Security Agency revealed some chill-
funds from other sources (local
ing findings: 1.2 million people in
authorities and parents), while
Israel live below the "poverty line."
schools in less prosperous areas are
In other words, one out of every
almost entirely dependent on the
five Israelis is poor. To make things
worse, some people in Israel have
If American Jews, then, wish to
become extremely rich, making the
help reduce the social injustice in
others feel even more impoverished.
Israel, they should look for projects
The feeling of social equality and
that invest more in education in the
solidarity that long characterized
poor areas. "Don't give them fish,"
Israel has been undermined.
goes the Chinese saying, "give them
The knee-jerk reaction of
a fishing rod and teach them how to
American Jews to their brothers and
sisters in distress has always been to
Once American Jews help pursue
donate money. Should the growing
justice in Israel, they also will
social injustice in Israel prompt
enhance the fulfillment of the other
American Jews to contribute more
part of the biblical phrase that speci-
fies the rewards for the pursuit of
Uri Dromi is director of international
justice: "So that you may live and
outreach at the Israel Democracy
inherit the land which the Lord your
Institute. E-mail: dromi@idi.org.il
God has given you." ❑


"American Jews ... should
look for projects that
invest more in education
in the poor areas."




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