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January 26, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-01-26

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Editor's Letter

THE

David Bittkers Legacy

act on your shortcomings.
mbraced by acceptance, success and comfort, too
Kaplan also talked abotit the Jewish moral and pragmatic
many Jews in America have become apathetic to who
obligation
to reach out to less-fortunate
we are as part of a people. So said.Joel Kaplan, presi-

people
around
the globe.
.
dent of B'nai B'rith International.
"One
day,
we
may
have
to
turn
to oth-
There's reason to be concerned. •
ers
who
are
not
Jewish
and
say,
`Help
us:
"Your grandparents would have considered it meeting their
One
day,
we
may
have
to
reach
out
to
obligations if they fed, clothed, sheltered and educated their
others and say, `Come stand with us.' And
children:' Kaplan said. "Today, that's not
they
will do that only if we stand with
enough." .
them.
They will do that only if they
Now, he said, expectations are higher:
know
we're
here to help other people —
ethnic cuisines, trendy fashions, vacation
not
just
Jews,
but all people'
homes and study abroad. "We really have
That
sounded
nice but abstract. Still, it
become very proud of what we've been
David Bittker
hit
home
when
Kaplan
told how B'nai
able to accomplish:' he said.
B'rith has sent $40 million over five years
. "But;' he added, "we've forgotten
to Latin America to pay for foOd, medicine, schoolbooks and
something along the way: to teach our
other necessities to stave off the ravages of a depressed econ-
Robert A. Sklar children their Jewish heritage and the
omy.
Editor
importance of Jewish continuity'
David Bittker, a B'nai B'rith icon who died in 2005, would
Have our efforts been that bad?
have
been proud to hear such an honest B'nai B'rith appraisal'
Kaplan flew in from New York to keynote the international
of
American
Jewish life. He savored the loving family relation-
charter presentation for the B'nai B'rith Great Lakes Region's
ship
of
B'nai
B'rith and its "children" – the Anti-Defamation
new David L. Bittker Unit for young, married couples. He
League, B'nai B'rith Youth
painted a dire-looking scene: More than 60 per-
Organization, and Hillel: The
cent of American Jews don't identify with their
Foundation for Jewish Campus
ethnicity or religion. On the world front, it's
Life. He was a beloved mentor
worse.
with
. a knack for inspiring and
"The world will number 3 billion people by
elevating.
He knew that the
year end:' Kaplan said. "But there are 13 million
state
of
Jewish
identity tomor-.
Jews, the same amount that we had in 1990. In
row
hinged
on
engaging
young
2010, there will be approximately 13 million Jews,
people in our heritage and
as the rest of the world grows larger.
ideals today. .
"This bodes ill for us."
Take it from Bittker Unit
It sure does.
President Steve Rotenberg:
Yet we sel-
"Well, David, you were right,
"I will continue
dom consider
and I did what you suggested:
our shrinkag e
`One person can truly make a
in contrast to to take the
difference: I will continue to
the growth in
take
the initiative and make a
initiative and
Christianity or
difference
within
our
community?'
Islam.
like Rotenberg's foundation-building goals for
B'nai B'rith
make a difference wit hin the I Bittker
Unit: to make it a B'nai B'rith model, to
and other -
increase
its
membership, to support dipster relief,
Jewish commu- our community.'
to
provide
outreach
to the community.
nal groups try
The
unit
will
serve
as a crucible for developing
hard to counter
- Steve Rotenberg, Bittker Unit president
young
Jewish
leaders,
fulfilling David fttker's most
the corrosive
ardent
hope.
Bittker
nurtured
the soul . of the
effects of
Detroit
Jewish
community.
No
task w4insur 7
assimilating so
mountable
under
his
watch.
It's
humbling
to
see twenty- and
deeply into the American way of life. A hundred years'.:•ago;feW
thirty-somethings
embody
his
legacy
with
such
vigor and
Jews lived the American dream. But succeeding genetAtions
promise.
began to taste America's-sweet fruits often at the expense of
, 4-
-
their Judaism.
What can we do to reach alienated
The most powerful moment in Kaplan's Jan. 14 message at
young people at the edges of the Jewish
the Franklin home of Sandy,and Alan Bittker came when he
community?
urged advocating for Jewish seniors who are frail, lonely or
needy. "We live in a very different world:' Kaplan said. "Today,
Why have the lures of secular living so
it is not unusual for elderly people to live alone. Too many of
diminished interest in keeping Jewish
us, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, are not in touch
tradition?
with our elderly parents at all."
Consider it a mitzvah to take stock of your connections to
E-mail letters to:
your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents — and
Ietters@thejewishnews.com

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January 26 • 2006

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