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September 12, 2003 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-12

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This Week

Controversial Vigil

Shabbat demonstrators outside Ann Arbor synagogue to protest Israers military actions.

worst of the 20th century's genocides."
Herskovitz, a Jewish Witnesses for Peace member,
held a sign with a picture he took when he was visiting
Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the West Bank.
After observing the Israeli military occupation, he said,
he saw how Palestinians were protesting and he came
home with a message and a goal — to inform his fel-
low Jews of "what they cannot learn through the New

month ago and currently has 12 members, plans to
vigil at synagogues, potentially adding more loca-
tions -as the group grows. Members will be at Beth
Israel Congregation on Washtenaw Avenue starting
Ann Arbor
Sept. 13 on Saturday mornings from 9:15 to 10:30.
handful of Jews and "friends of Jews"
Herskovitz said he has spoken with rabbis in the
deeply troubled by Israeli military actions
Ann Arbor area, hoping to present his photographs
against the Palestinians made their views
and stories from the West Bank to their congrega-
known with a silent vigil on the sidewalk
York Times."
tions, but found the congregations less receptive
outside a University of Michigan Hillel event Sept. 3.
"I observed the 99.9 percent of Palestinians that
than he had hoped.
And they plan to do the same by displaying signs
resist occupation in a peaceful manner," he said. "I
Herkovitz, who said he has been chastised for his
and distributing leaflets outside Ann Arbor's
came back to Ann Arbor with all these stories I
position in relation to the Jewish community, said,
Conservative B'nai Israel Congregation this Shabbat
wanted to tell. I wanted specifically to talk to the
"My response is that I think I'm being a better Jew
Jewish community because I'm Jewish; because I
by looking out for our own situation.
Jeffrey Levin, director of the Jewish Federation of
"What are we becoming ourselves when
Washtenaw County, responded to the
we're only becoming occupiers and military
prospect of the Saturday morning protest, "I
experts? We are a people that have a reputa-
think that disrupting the sanctity and peace
tion of being kind and open to the plight of
of Shabbat by holding a vigil is a tactic that is
other peoples because we have a long and
not likely to help this group achieve its goals
tragic experience being Jews, and so we
and will, in fact, increase animosity.
should be the last people to occupy and
"If the goal is free debate on Israel and her
oppress another people."
response to the current conflict, they'll find
Herskovitz said he also recognized that
an openness to a wide variety of opinions at
there was an element of rudeness in holding
any venue of the organized community."
a vigil at a synagogue on Shabbat. "But my
Beth Israel's Rabbi Robert Dobrusin said,
intention is not to be rude, my intention is
"We certainly respect the right to gather
to create an awareness in the mainstream
peacefully on public property, but we feel
Jewish community in this country of what's
that the decision to hold the vigil near the
going on in our name in the occupied terri-
synagogue on Shabbat during services violates
the holiness of the day and interferes with the
"I believe people don't want to be both-
spirit of Shabbat. We have - strongly urged our
ered by other things on their way to the
congregants to avoid any confrontation with
synagogue, and I take responsibility of both-
this group on this day and we anticipate that
ering them," he said. "I recognize it is a
there will be no such confrontation."
bother, but I also recognize that their silence
The vigil was designed to raise awareness of
At the vigil outside U-M Hillel are Amy Rosenberg, Marcia Federbasuh and her
on this issue is complicit in supporting this
an issue Ann Arbor resident Henry
daughter Laurel Federbush.
illegal military occupation."
Herskovitz said needs to be brought to the
Herskovitz said that he was raised in a
attention of mainstream Jewish America.
Conservative Jewish home. He said that
On Sept. 3, the protest group, Jewish
think Jewish Americans with conscience will be able
since the early 1970s, he attended Beth Israel on
Witnesses for Peace, stood on the sidewalk outside
to sway U.S. foreign policy which permits the occu-
Yom Kippur and considers it his synagogue and is
U-M Hillel holding posters and handing out papers
pation to exist," he said.
fond of Rabbi Drobrusin.
as about 600 students walked into Hillel's annual
"Vigil is to stand — to witness in a dignified,
"We all grew up as children with a pro-Israel view-
open house, which showcased affiliated Jewish stu-
respectful fashion, offering literature, conversation
point so at some point in an activist's life, he or she
dent organizations on campus.
and storytelling," he said. "I think the stories need to
makes a conscious switch to question Israeli policy,
Hillel Director Michael Brooks said he felt the
come out, stories like what goes on inside the West
and personally that happened for me on the steps of
Jewish Witnesses for Peace group was trivializing a
Bank, inside Gaza; the violence of occupation."
that synagogue," Herskovitz said.
very complicated issue by standing outside with
He said it is also important to show the world that
He said someone there told him something about
signs and 'posters.
this is an issue where not all Jews think alike, a
Israel he didn't believe and he started doing research
"If they're really interested in winning over the
point illustrated by the sometimes-heated conversa-
into "myths."
hearts and minds of Jewish college students, this is
tions that emerged between individuals attending
Herskovitz said protesting at Beth Israel would be
not the way to do it because people are going to
the open house and group members.
emotionally difficult for him. But, he added, "I
shut it out," he said.
"I feel like I'm getting a terrific response from
believe that the Conservative congregations are
Hillel; some of the students are coming up with
where the moneyed interests are, the supporters of
Refugee Camp Visit
questions," he said. "They start out a little aggravat-
AIPAC and other pro-Israeli organizations. I think
ed but quickly, start to listen to our stories."
that's the largest group of Ann Arbor Jewish people
A leaflet passed out by the protestors stated in part,
that contribute to these organizations."
"We contend that the actions of the Israeli govern-
Synagogue Protest
Said Rabbi Dobrusin, "Our congregants hold
ment are antithetical to the precepts of Judaism and
different political viewpoints and many have
to the memory of those who perished in one of the


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