Empower Us! Hear Our Voices
t is mid-February and one of the
biggest blizzards to ever hit the
East Coast is descending upon
Meanwhile, in the bowels of the
Grand Hyatt, another storm is brewing.
A resolution presented by Will
Dempster, the North American
Federation of Temple Youth's program-
ming vice president is being debated.
"We must take a stand on Israel," he
NFTY has made many statements of
solidarity with the Jewish homeland,
and many delegates debate the merits
of presenting a resolution that asks an
entire movement made up of 15,000
diverse minds to take a stand.
"It is time for our voices to be
heard," replies Dempster.
And just as the snow devastates the
nation's capital, the debate rages on.
"What about the rights of the
Palestinians?" ask some. "What about
our rights?" ask others.
Amendments are adopted. Many
points of view are expressed.
And after an hour of intense debate,
Chad Rochkind, 18, ofWest Bloomfield
is the son of Lynne and Rabbi Norman
Roman ofWest Bloomfield and Sanford
Rochkind of Oak Park. He's affiliated
with Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield.
After taking this school year off to focus on
his NFTY responsibilities, the 2002 West
Bloomfield High graduate will study at
the University of Michigan this fall.
the North American General Board,
made up of four delegates from each of
the 21 NFTY regions, finally decides to
take a vote.
In the end, the resolution is adopted
by a 2-1 margin, quite a mandate from
a representative body that has a hard
time agreeing on much of anything.
I'm not going to get into the details
of what the resolution said, or what
some of my issues with it are, because
ultimately that doesn't really matter.
What matters is that 84 Jewish
teenagers from the United States and
Canada engaged in civil and informed
debate on the issue that they felt was
most pressing to North American
In an age where their elders see
teenagers as file-swapping thieves and
as hazing miscreants, I am delighted to
be one who knows that this view is
myopic at best and dangerous at worst.
Resounding Vigo r
During my one-year term as NFTY
president, which ended on June 23, I
have seen teenagers whose passion,
excitement and curiosity far exceeded
their adult counterparts.
While the Reform Movement failed
to debate the merits of the war in Iraq
(except when it passed a resolution in
September, supporting it if various cri-
teria were met; but back then, few of us
truly understood what was going on),
NFTY found itself in a movement-
wide dialogue with both sides receiving
fair and equal treatment.
So what is the most pressing
And, while the various move-
issue facing our youth? The
ments of Judaism found them-
answer is simple: empower-
selves at odds with each other,
the youth have united behind
Our Jewish communities, no
the leadership of United
matter which movement we
Synagogue Youth's international
come from, could do more for
president, David Goldberg, in
the youth. Yes, some syna-
forming NAJYA: the North
gogues allow the youth group
American Jewish Youth
ROCHKIND president to sit on the congre-
Special to the gation's board of trustees, and
Yes, the youth are moving.
Jewish News yes, most congregations hire
They are out there. They are
employees to serve the needs of
getting things done.
In my travels around the country,
But this isn't enough.
which took me as far east as Boston
The entire culture of Judaism needs
and as far west as Seattle, and pretty
to be centered on youth inclusion. It
much everywhere in between, I
isn't about token inclusiveness or about
encountered teens who had a desire to
hiring someone to deal with us so you
make the world a better place, who
don't have to. It's about creating a cli-
believed in the power of dreams and
mate in which those things aren't as
who had the drive to will their dreams
necessary. The youth should be seen as
a vital, if not the most vital, part of our
Pearl S. Buck, the renowned author
of The Good Earth, once said, "The
young do not know enough to be pru-
Hear our voices!
dent, and therefore they attempt the
Guide us, but ultimately let us forge
impossible — and achieve it generation
our own spiritual and religious Jewish
How right she is!
When addressing the Zionist
Organization of America, John F.
Kennedy said, "The Jewish people, ever
since David slew Goliath, have never
I've seen adults say that the task could
considered youth as a barrier to leader-
not be done, only to see teenagers turn
around and do it. I've seen young peo-
Let us all heed these wise words, and
ple standing up for what they believe in make our community a community of
even if, all too often, they have had to
empowered leaders, regardless of age.
May this be God's will! ❑
What Now In The Mideast?
n the past few weeks, Palestinian
Authority Prime Minister
Mahmoud Abbas had the audaci-
ty to recognize that "We
[Palestinians] do not ignore the suffering
of Jews throughout history." For this
transgression, Hamas declared their
opposition to Abbas, to the U.S.-backed
road map for peace in the Middle East
and to the existence of the State of
One of the more serious threats to the
success of the road map is the convic-
tion of both sides in the dispute that
they alone have the truth. For the
Palestinians, that truth is that the Israelis
Bob Faber, an Ann Arbor resident and
businessman since 1954, served on the city
are intruders in the land that has been
historically theirs; the Israelis insist that
long before the Arabs came, the Jews
had been given it by God. Both sides
have the facts of history to prove their
Unfortunately, history, depending on
the needs of the people quoting it, can
be as much myth as fact. One of the
many tragedies of the Middle East is the
distortion and exploitation of past
events to support claims and justi fy
abuses that tend to memorialize the fric-
tions rather than resolve the conflict. If
the past is to be used to explain the
present and validate the future, the
accuracy of that past must be established
The centerpiece of the current dispute
is the tragedy of the Palestinian people
— victims of poverty, oppression and
unrelieved despair. Brutalized by
merely landless wanderers in
the politics of both their leaders
the land of Palestine.
and their neighbors, they live a
The Refugee Riddle
tragedy that cannot be trivial-
ized; yet, an equitable assess-
The more serious charge, that
ment of blame demands a fair
those displaced Palestinians are
separation of mythology from
relegated to permanent
fact. The genesis of the conflict
"refugee" status until they can
between Jews and Arabs, after
regain control of their confis-
all, is not in the current politics
cated lands, is a gross manipu-
of the region, but far predates either the
lation of the facts. The tragic plight of
dream or the fact of the State of Israel.
those refugees is more the consequence
Palestinians are convinced that the
of political exploitation by their extend-
influx of Jews returning to their ancient
ed family than by the tragedies of war.
homeland after 2,000 years forced the
Refugees are hardly a new phenome-
"indigenous" Palestinians from their
non in the world of wars and upheavals;
lands, a characterization disputed by the
until now, their plight has always been
Muslim chairman of the Syrian Peace
met and resolved by the people them-
delegation in 1919, who insisted that
selves or by the neighboring nations.
the earlier generations of Arabs in the
The census figures of worldwide
region were not "Palestinians," but
refugees in 1980 and 1982, for example,