Rhythm Of Jewish Existence
ver the course of human history, Jews have been
loved and hated, even at the same time. As neo-Nazis
gain traction in the winds of Jew hating sweeping
across Europe, for example, Germany has experienced an
explosion of Jewish studies programs.
That phenomenon is noteworthy, says one of America's top
Jewish history scholars. And I agree.
American Jews tend to view Europe's reli-
gious unrest through one lens rather than
the multiple lenses required.
"Germany, ironically, has become, as I
try to convince my Jewish tourists, the
most sympathetic and welcoming place
for Jews in Europe, more so than France
or England': Dr. David B.
Robert A. Sklar Ruderman said in an exclusive
interview following lunch at
the Rabbi B. Benedict & Ada S.
Glazer Institute on Judaism for Catholic, Eastern
Orthodox, Muslim and Protestant . clergy. The 64th
annual institute was held at Temple Beth El in
Dr. Ruderman is the Joseph Meyerhoff Professor
of Modern Jewish History and director of the Center
for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of
Pennsylvania. He keynoted the Glazer Institute on
Feb. 10 at the invitation of Beth El's Rabbi Daniel
Syme. The Center that Dr. Ruderman heads is a national model,
which the University of Michigan's Frankel Center for Judaic
Studies has tapped into for counsel.
An enlightening speaker, Dr. Ruderman confided that he has
no answer for the hatred of Jews, who make up less than 1 per-
cent of the world population. "The
irony of Zionism': he said, "is that it
was supposed to solve problems
like this. In many ways, it has cre-
ated a new version of hate. That
new target is Zionism itself.
"The Jewish state is a new target
for hating Jews."
It sure is.
I listened intently as Dr.
Ruderman explained how geopolit-
ical realities of the Arab world have
complicated matters. "The Arabs,
in many respects, appropriated the
Dr. Ruderman: "Jews
stereotypes that came from
must cling to people of
European anti-Semitism and
transformed them to include
denial of the Holocaust': he said.
He didn't offer up definitive counterstrategy, but he did stress
the role of educating non-Jews about Judaism and Zionism.
Alas, we must never give up on teaching and informing others,
no matter how dark the relationship clouds may appear. Lest
we forget: Vitriol toward Jews infects the entire world with lies
and fear — and dilutes the value of human life.
Learning, of course, is relative. While it may inspire, guide
and expand us, it also may indoctrinate us. As Dr. Ruderman
suggested, professors were capable of igniting the gas cham-
bers in Nazi Germany.
Consider what Hamas, the terrorist group that won the
Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, showed on its
While some Jews want to give Hamas a
chance to change its stripes and become
a legitimate world player, I say to let
down our guard for an instant would
be like playing with a live bomb.
I concur with Dr. Ruderman, who said that Jews "must cling
to people of good will who see such hatred as a horrible disease
that not only impacts upon Jews, but also the world communi-
The Glazer Institute was the perfect backdrop for such blunt
talk. Rabbi Glazer died in 1952 at age 49 after 10 years of serv-
ing Beth El. He fought for civil rights, better mental health
facilities and housing for the poor. And he was a devout
Zionist. Ada Glazer lived to 89 and died in 1999. She also con-
tributed to improving the larger society.
Rabbi Glazer once said, "A personal price must be paid for
every moral gain made in the world ... nothing is lasting that is
not born of man's willingness to give up something of himself
for the sake of the social good."
Pressure from American Jews has prompted a Presbyterian
committee looking into possible selected, phased divestment
from multinational corporations doing business in Israel to
announce that it won't have a recommendation in time for the
Presbyterian Church (USA)'s General Assembly this June.
Whether we're loved or hated, Jews — in the spirit of Rabbi
Glazer — must stand together defending our ancestral home-
land and embracing tikkun olam, making the world a better
POI N TS TO PON D ER...
Web site last week — the parting video messages of two sui-
cide bombers. One of the terrorists said, according to a transla-
tion by the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Media Watch: "My
message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah;
we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks
blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the
blood of Jews...
"In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take
revenge against you, [and] purify the land of you, pigs that have
defiled our country... This operation is revenge against the sons
of monkeys and pigs!"
While some Jews want to give Hamas a chance to change its
stripes and become a legitimate world player, I say to let down
our guard for an instant would be like playing with a live bomb.
Is our future as a people essential to
productive Jewish existence?
Why must we educate non-Jews about
our history and heritage?
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February 23 • 2006