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January 31, 2003 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-31

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Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:


Dry Bones

Worries At The Margin


ews, generally comfortable and prosperous in
America, ought to take seriously the findings
— positive and negative — of a recent sur-
vey that examined anti-Semitic attitudes in
this country.
Among the viewpoints found by the Institute for
Jewish & Community Research, the most disturbing
is a rise in anti-Semitic beliefs among Americans who
are 35 or younger. They are substantially more likely
than their parents to believe, for instance, that Jews
are responsible for killing Jesus Christ or that Jews
wield too much influence over the news media and
Wall Street.
This attitudinal shift has, without doubt, numerous
causes; the survey recommends additional
work to ferret them out. But it is hard not to
think that they include the Israel-Arab con-
flict and, more generally, the rise in Islamic
revisionist thinking. Another driver may be Christian
fundamentalist teaching.
When Islamic revisionists play to enthusiastic audi-
ences throughout the Middle East, and politicians can-
not wait to proclaim that they have been born again as
Christians or that they see nothing wrong with prayer
in public schools, school administrators and teachers
get a message that quickly shows up in campus atti-
tudes and activities.
Obviously lacking any firsthand experience of World
War II, many younger Americans simply don't believe
the Holocaust happened; others say they either aren't
sure or don't know that six million Jews were murdered
by the Nazis. Somehow the widely touted Holocaust
education programs are not reaching significant num-
bers of young people while revisionist and fundamen-
talist messages are.
Another factor affecting younger Americans has to
be the campus embrace of the Palestinian cause. Far
too many college students get a totally distorted view
of Israel and the reasons for its continuing presence in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ill-informed professors
and well-organized campus Palestinian groups pro-
claim repeatedly the suffering of the masses of

PRovEN 71-16,





Rabbi Gamze's Way

he death of Rabbi Noah Gamze last week
focuses our attention on his beloved Isaac
Agree Downtown Synagogue and the con-
gregation that he served for nearly 40 years.
The Downtown Synagogue is unique in
metropolitan Detroit. Its congregants
come from all walks of life — Jews from
neighboring office towers looking for a
minyan or for yahrtzeit, Jews from neighboring
streets looking for a place to get warm and a kind
word, Jews who drive in from the suburbs, drawn
by the shul's intimate setting and Jewish presence in
the central city.
To Rabbi Gamze, Jews were everywhere, whether
they were Jewish or not. And many of his "Jews"
eventually became Jewish through formal study and
conversion because of his influence.
Rabbi Gamze, a gentle man with a yen to help,
was a one-man Jewish relief agency. He visited the



r+146- WORL-1)
Palestinians under a supposedly dictatorial
C'001,1) FLutQGE
Israeli military presence without ever
acknowledging that those woes can be
traced directly to the collective folly and
indifference of the Arab nations.
The facts that all of Israel's wars have
been defensive, that Arab rejection of the
Jewish state began in 1948 and continued
through the Camp David and Taba
processes of two years ago or that
Palestinian textbooks teach Arab children
to hate Jews somehow get overlooked in

the collegiate sympathies for the alleged
.1; e
underdogs. It is not clear that the campus
infatuation with anti-Zionism
always equates to anti-Semitism,
but for a lot of Jews on campus-
1.14, - STATE
es these days, that is a distinction
1.616.a u5
without a difference.
The authors of the survey, Gary A.
Tobin and Sid Groeneman, wisely suggest
that the quality and quantity of education
about Jews and Israel should be increased
at every level of education, and that work-
shops and conferences should be organized
to help teachers and administrators under-
stand Judaism better. Further, they suggest
Jews must work more closely with African-
American and Latino communities, where
anti-Semitic beliefs are the most common,
and inter-religious dialogue should be
atheists, Muslims and Mormons. A quarter of those
heightened, particularly by stressing the need for semi-
sampled didn't express a single anti-Semitic belief, they
narians to learn how to combat anti-Semitic credos.
outnumbered those who said that Jews were a moral
Having identified the problem of prejudice that
threat to America or that a Jewish president might set
exists among young Americans, however, the survey
the interests of Israel ahead of the interests of the
broadly reinforces a much more positive view of
United States.
America's overall tolerance for Jews, one that contrasts
We don't have to be defensive but we should pay
sharply with the sad history of bias that continues to
attention to the worrisome misperceptions of too
plague too many European countries. Just about half
many young Americans and take some simple steps to
of the more than 1,000 Americans interviewed said
make sure that those attitudes never harden into a
that Jews are just like themselves in basic beliefs and
national pattern of malevolence. ❑
values, a much more positive rating than they gave to

W '114 ou - r

136-t tQG

sick, took in the poor, handed a dollar to anyone in
need and worked to keep afloat a financially difficult
enterprise. Under his spiritual embrace, the High
Holidays were the congregation's biggest fund-raiser.
Anyone could attend services at the Downtown
Synagogue's "annex" — the old Veterans'
Administration Building on the riverfront and other
large venues — for the princely sum of
$25. Many, of course, attended free.
Unaffiliated Jews are drawn by the
eclectic vigor of this congregation, which
crosses racial and social barriers more profoundly
than many larger suburban counterparts. Jews from
all religious upbringings have answered its call to
come pray, however. Tradition still resonates, but
with an ear to our changing times — there's now
equal participation of women, for example.
Younger people are especially drawn to the syna-
gogue's sense of family; members are always there
for each other's higher good.
Detroit Jews need a Rabbi Gamze to remind us of
our duty to help the less fortunate through tzedakah






and repair of the world, tikkun olam. We all too
often forget that we have fellow Jews — and non-
Jews — who are not made in our image, but in
God's image. There are poor Jews in Detroit. There
are poor Jews in the suburbs. There are people of
many faiths, and of no faith, who need our help.
When the Jewish Welfare Federation of Detroit
changed its name to Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit, it properly projected the idea that it was for all
Jews, not only the neediest. Federation's huge and far-
reaching agenda includes acculturation, Jewish educa-
tion, elder care, Israel, human rights, social action,
interfaith relations — and Jews who are poor or
oppressed throughout the diaspora.
But its roots are firmly here and so are many of
our problems.
Rabbi Gamze would often refer to Gan Eden —
the Garden of Eden — when meeting friends and
strangers. No one worked harder at creating Gan
Eden along Griswold in downtown Detroit. As indi-
viduals and as organizations, we need to follow his
example. ❑





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