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December 19, 2003 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-19

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GALE from page 37

Similarly, we in America cannot sustain
vibrant Jewish life if we close ourselves
off from our surroundings, refusing to
let in the best of what American society
and culture has to offer. Yet, being
Jewish in America requires a little sechel
(common sense).
As Jews in America, we engage in a
careful and constant balancing of out-
side influences with those of our own
tradition. Abraham Joshua Heschel put
it well when he said that Judaism sur-
vives and adapts best when it adopts
some of the elements from the sur-
rounding culture — but is not assimilat-
ed into it.
As American Jews, we embrace our
country's values. We participate in
Amerids cultural and technological
achievements, and we are grateful for

the opportunities offered by this blessed
land. Yet like our ancestors in ancient
Judea, we must retain our sense of ju
ment and balance — sechel, if you will.
Living in this great country, we must
be ever watchful that the "outside" influ-
ences and values we bring to our lives
serve ultimately to nurture and enhance
our Judaism and Jewish identity — not
undermine and weaken them.
And perhaps that is what Jim
Morrison and The Doors can teach us
this Chanukah season: That like our
musical ancestors, while we keep our
ears and our hearts open to that which is
of value in the world around us — not
every new tune for "Adon Olam" is a
"keeper."

New York
s the United States prepares to
put deposed Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein on trial, it
may find it useful to examine Israel's
experience in bringing a notorious
war criminal to court.
In May 1960, Israeli agents cap-
tured Nazi war criminal Adolf
Eichmann in Argentina and flew him
to Israel to face trial for his senior
role in the genocide of 6 million
European Jews. Israel immediately
faced a torrent of international criti-
cism.
The United Nations Security
Council voted unanimously — with
U.S. support — to condemn Israel
for "endanger[ing] international
peace and security." The Washington
Post asserted that Israel's capture and
planned prosecution of Eichmann
were "tainted by lawlessness," and
that Israel had no right to act in the
name of Holocaust victims or the
Jewish people as a whole, which the
Post called an "imaginary Jewish eth-
nic entity." Time magazine accused
Israel's leaders of "inverse racism" for
their position that Israel could speak
for the Jewish people.
The New York Times rejected the
Israeli claims that Eichmann's role in
the Nazi genocide justified Israel's

intrusion into Argentina on the
grounds that "no immoral or illegal
act justifies another." The Times also
denounced the idea of trying
Eichmann in Israel. It preferred that
he be brought before an international
tribunal since "it was not against
Israel but against humanity that his
crimes were committed."
This position echoed the Times'
policy during the Holocaust of delib-
erately obscuring the Jewish identity
of Hitler's victims. Times Publisher
Arthur Hays Sulzberger believed that
American Jews should keep their
Jewishness as hidden as possible, and
made it clear to Times editors that
their coverage of Nazi atrocities
should likewise play down the Jewish
angle. They faithfully complied.
Some U.S. church publications
were particularly bitter in their
attacks on Israel's prosecution of
Eichmann. An article in the
Unitarian Register compared "the
Jew-pursuing Nazi and the Nazi-pur-
suing Jew." The Catholic newspaper _
the Tablet said the Eichmann trial
was a reminder "that there are still
some influential people around who
— like Shylock of old — demand
their pound of flesh."

Dr. Medoff is director of the David
Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies,
which focuses on issues'related -to
America' response to the Holocaust. His
e-mail address is
rafaelmedoff@aol.com

Some leaders might have wavered
under such withering attacks.
President Bush may start to have sec-
ond thoughts if he faces strong criti-
cism for his handling of Saddam.
But Israeli Prime Minister David

York Times asserted,
Ben-Gurion was unbending.
"Eichmann's crimes are so
"American journalists, who
enormous" that "hanging
have not suffered from the
becomes meaningless."
Nazi atrocities, may be 'objec-
Novelist Pearl Buck urged
tive' and deny Israel's right to
that Eichmann be kept alive
try one of the greatest of the
so that he might be studied.
Nazi murderers," Ben-Gurion
The Central Conference of
rebuffed his challengers. "But
DR. RAFAEL American (Reform) Rabbis
the calamity that the Nazis
declared its opposition to all
inflicted on the Jewish people
MEDOFF
capital punishment as a mat-
is a specific and unparalleled
Special
act — an act designed for the
Commentary ter of principle. Martin
Buber and a group of fellow-
utter extermination of the
entire Jewish people... Historic justice Hebrew University professors argued
that some young Germans had
and the honor of the Jewish people
recently shown humanistic tenden-
demand that this should be done
cies, and executing Eichmann would
only by an Israeli court in the sover-
retard" the flowering of their
eign Jewish state."
humanism.
Digging In
The New York Times' final editorial
on the subject, published following
As the opening of the Eichmann trial
Eichmann'sexecution, went so far as
approached, the critics took aim
to argue that while Eichmann was
again. State Department officials
guilty, others-were also guilty of
"deplored" the prosecution of
"murderous hatred" — citing the
Eichmann because, they claimed, the
Soviet Union, France, Spain and even
trial was making some Western
our own country, where the power
democracies "less responsive to the
of the federal government has had to
Berlin crisis than desired." An edito-
be invoked to secure equal justice for
rial in the Times of London warned
a racial minority."
that while the trial might be fair, it
Not many pundits today will com-
was tainted because it "springs from
pare the United States to Saddam
an admittedly illegal act — the
Hussein as the New York Times com-
abduction of Eichmann from
pared the U.S. to the Nazis in 1962.
Argentina."The Times warned omi-
But President Bush will surely find
nously that the trial would have "pro-
himself challenged for having
found effects [on Israel's] relations
Saddam prosecuted and punished.
with the rest of the world [and they]
What remains to be seen is whether
will not necessarily be good."
he will follow Ben-Gurion's example
Yet another round of criticism
and stand fast, or bend to the pres-
erupted after Eichmann was convict-
sure of his critics. ❑
ed and sentenced to death. The New

ments from their non-Jewish musical
surroundings into their t011ot (prayers) •
and gave these melodies a particularly
"Jewish" meaning.
Even the Maccabees, as they fought
against the tyrant Antiochus, recognized
that Greek civilization had much to
offer Judaism. They fought against only
those influences that were inconsistent
with the Judaism's values, and against
the inclination by some Jews toward
complete assimilation into Greek society
and the abandonment of Judaism.

Balancing Act

Daniel Gale is cantor of Temple Israel
in Bay City.

U

Jim Morrison: singer, teacher



Saddam On Trial

A

Jig

12/19

2003

38

Ben-Gurion's Influence

C C

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