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December 01, 2005 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-12-01

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I Opinion


Courage To Be Counter-Cultural

ne of the most frequent
criticisms that I hear
about Jewish day school
eduCation is that our students do
not live -in the real world. Critics
feel that children are so sheltered
at a Jewish day high school that
they cannot possibly be prepared
to encounter the open world of
the university.
In the six years of the existence
of the Jewish Academy of
Metropolitan Detroit, our experi-
ence does not bear out the prem-
ise (that Jewish day high school
students are isolated from the real
world) or the conclusion; that our
graduates are unequipped to face
a world of diversity). -
As enriched a Jewish education
as one gets at the Jewish
Academy, a student cannot help
but encounter people of different
religions, skin colors, strengths,
beliefs and backgrounds. They do
so through the 13 interscholastic
sports teams we offer. Ironically,
our boys' baseball team was the
2005 Catholic League champions.
Our students encounter the


diverse world, not just on the ball
field but in the classroom as well.
They do so through the eyes of
authors like the Nigerian writer
Dhinua Achebe, who writes in
Things Fall Apart about the clash
between African culture and
European colonialism and who
balances the view of Joseph
Conrad in A Heart of Darkness.
They are taught science from a
young man of Indian descent,
mathematics from a Buddhist
gentleman from Sri Lanka and
history from a devout Catholic.
But even if our students did not
compete with other schools in
sports, robotics and Model U.N.,
and had only Jewish teachers and
studied only Jewish texts and took
only Jewish ideas seriously, they
would still not be isolated from
the "real world." For school does
not constitute the entirety of any
student's life.
The real question, however, is
not how do we prepare kids to fit
into the "real world" — it is very
easy to do that — but how do we
help them construct a Jewish

world? When our ances-
to rulers that enticed. us
tors- came to Ellis Island
with the carrot and dic-
100 years ago, they had
tators that threatened us
one question: How do I
with the stick in order to
become a loyal
preserve our Jewish
identity. We followed the
Now, a century later,
example of the first Jew,
the question is: How do I
Abraham, whom the
Rabbi Lee
become a loyal Jew? How
Torah describes as
do I pass on this legacy
Avraham Ha-ivri,
to my children and my -
because the world was
children's children in an
on one side (eyver) and
open, liberal, free society
he was. willing to stand
in which there are no artificial
by himself on the other.
barriers of anti-Semitism, ghettos
Abraham traveled the "real
or real estate covenants to remind world" but had the courage to
them that they are Jews? How do
stand alone in opposition to that
our children enjoy the beautiful
world out of profound conviction
melting pot of American society
and love for a particular way of
without allowing it to melt away
life. And.because of that, Judaism
their Jewish identity?
became the cornerstone of
To remain as Jews in a world
Western civilization and ultimate-
where one's Jewishness is a choice
ly the basis for all three major
and not a condition, we must be
monotheistic faiths.
willing to be counter-cultural. If
A Jewish Academy student rec-
we are not willing to live by a dif-
ognized this truth when he said,
ferent calendar, a different set of
"Some people say that coming to
values, and a different set of priori- a Jewish day school means that I
ties, we will not be Jewish for long. do not experience diversity. But I
Throughout history, we said no
say that when I get to college, I

will be able to contribute to its
diversity because I have learned
who I am as a Jew."
He was right. If we only say
what everyone else says, and if we
only do what everyone else does,
who needs us? There are many
authentic gentiles in the world.
The world does not need imita-
tion ones.
Yes, we must live in the "real
world." We cannot avoid it. Most
of 21st century Jewry lives in
what author Cynthia Ozick calls
the "twin nobilities, the twin
antiquities, the civilization that
invented the telescope side by side
with the civilization that invented
The true test is whether we will
be as proud and positive about
living in the Jewish kingdom as
we are in the general kingdom.
The question is: Do we have the
courage to be counter-cultural? 0


Rabbi Lee Buckman is head of
school at the Jewish Academy of
Metrop-olitan Detroit in West

We Need Community Support

Ann Arbor
ewish students face serious
problems on the University of
Michigan campus. It begins
inside the classroom with tenured
professors disseminating anti- -
Israel propaganda. Professors por-
tray Israel as an apartheid state or
as a Jewish terrorist state. One
guest lecturer cried hysterically of
brutal atrocities she claimed that
Israel committed. Recently, a
group of U-M Dearborn profes-
sors launched a new divestment
campaign, garnering signatures of
professors (many from the Ann
Arbor campus) to pressure the
university to cease investments in
companies doing business with
The anti-Israel sentiment at U-
M is pervasive. Divestment fliers
plaster our buildings. Articles in
the Michigan Daily and letters to
the editor advance this same rhet-
oric. And Israel's enemies form
alliances with professors, student
groups, non-campus organiza-



tions and even, some-
effort is crucial, not only
• times, Jewish organiza-
so students will have a
chance to connect to
Pro-Israel students on
their roots, heritage and
campus are working with
culture, but also to make
the student government,
a definitive statement on
campus groups and other
campus regarding Israel •
organizations to fight the
— that Israel is here to
misconceptions, lies and
stay. From complex legal
hatred. The constant bar-
issues to difficulty in
rage of anti-Israel activity
gaining access to the
on campus is exhausting
university administra-
and the pro-Israel stu-
tion, the problems asso-
dents on this campus are
ciated with creating a
at a lass. We desperately
Jennif er Gonik study abroad program
need resources — we
are overwhelming for
a nd
need support and today,
Jessic a Risch students to handle
we need your help.
Corn munity alone.
Students have been
To help remedy this
Pers pective
working vigorously to
situation, we as a com-
institute a U-M study
munity can create a
abroad program to Israel. We have study abroad scholarship fund for
done research and written articles students who wish to study in
in the student newspaper. We are
Israel. We also can work to set up
trying to work with the university an Israel Endowment fund to pro-
administration while also seeking vide pro-Israel student groups
out pro-Israel professors who can like the American Movement for
help us champion this cause. This Israel and the nascent Israel Idea

financial backing to promote
Israel education, awareness and
activism on campus.
Now is the time to lobby the
university, the Board of Regents
and President Mary Sue Coleman.
Thank them for their position
and comments regarding Israel;
discuss with them the importance
of a study abroad program to
Israel. You will be sending a pow-
erful message that the Jewish
community cares and is united
behind its students.
Most importantly, the suburban
Detroit Jewish community must
stay informed. Ask students about
the current situation on campus
and ask them what can be done to
Michigan State University just
lifted its study abroad ban to
Israel due to outstanding leader-
ship from professors, hard work
from students and support from
people in the community. It has
developed a successful model to
follow and has become the third

university in the Big Ten to rein-
state study abroad to Israel. So
come on Michigan alums -- now
we need you!
Students, professionals, parents,
alumni and community members
— we need your help! We know
that you care and are committed
to ensuring a better atmosphere
on campus for pro-Israel stu-
dents. We have the confidence
that you will make that same
request — whether it be to the
university, to Hillel, to the Board
of Regents or to any faculty mem-
bers you may know. We hope this
will lead to a productive campus
and community collaborati-on. We
thank you in advance for your
help and support. 0

Jessica Risch of Santa Monica,
Calif:, is Israel Chair of the Hillel
Governing Board. Both she and
Jennifer Gonik, of West Bloomfield,
are U-M juniors and former interns
with MAC, the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee.

December 1 2005


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