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A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations.

A newsletter on American Jewish - German relations.

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Du bow digest germany edition august 15, 2011 Document Transcript

  • 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONAugust 15, 2011Dear Friends:I know that many of you lucky Germans are enjoying your long summer vacations.We here in the U.S. get a few weeks a year but most (those that are employed) graba couple of weeks in the summer and then it’s back to work. Pity us!Many in the Jewish community (as well as other Americans) watch the stock marketreports every day to see how their retirement funds are doing. Most these days havewhat are called 401-K retirement plans which are affected by market forces. Fewerand fewer have guaranteed retirement income plans. So it goes in super capitalistAmerica.Many Jews and others interested in events in the Middle East read theprognostications about what the Palestinians will do in September regardingstatehood. I have written a lot about it in the past so I won’t dwell on it other than tosuggest that you read Jackson Diehl’s Washington Post article of today. Click hereto bring it up. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/will-abbass-desperate-gambit-trigger-a-third-intifada/2011/08/11/gIQAqDCjFJ_story.html?hpid=z3With 15 months still to go before our presidential elections the campaign is alreadyunderway. The Republicans who have to go through a primary election race seemedto have narrowed their number of candidates down to three, Michele Bachmann,Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Theywill have to battle it out until next year’s primaries. Meanwhile, Pres. Obama isbeginning a campaign to upgrade his popularity which has suffered during the downtime in our economy. I’m already tired of presidential politics and we still have over ayear to go before the real election. Pity us!Enough about our problems. Let’s get on to the news…IN THIS EDITION 1
  • 2. ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST – As if terrorism and war aren’t enough, wealso have genuine anti-Semitism.SOCIAL UNREST IN ISRAEL – The cost of living is too high for many. Bigdemonstrations but no violence.JEWS WHO ARE NOT JEWS: POLITICAL DIRTY TRICKS? – Is saying you’reJewish in order to attack Israel like being an undercover terrorist?OLDER AMERICAN RABBIS – You’re never too old…ASSIMILATION: A RUSSIAN-JEWISH-AMERICAN PROBLEM – Many youngpeople start off adulthood as radicals. Not these first generation Americans.JEWS OF COLOR – Surprise! We’re not all white.THE ISRAELI WALL: OR IS IT A FENCE? – I, too, prefer “barrier”.ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE MIDDLE EASTFor those of us who are Jewish and supporters of Israel it’s bad enough that theJewish State is threatened politically and with terrorism. It now looks as if there issome anti-Semitism thrown in to the mix to make things even a little worse.Aymenn Jawad, an intern at the Middle East Forum and a student at OxfordUniversity writing in the Jerusalem Post, reports “I was recently told by my aunt inBaghdad that there was a widespread belief among Iraqis that some external forcewas behind the protests and uprisings across the Middle East. What outsideconspiracy, I wondered, could be responsible for the Arab Spring? Not to worry,however; George Saliba – the Syriac Orthodox Church’s bishop in Lebanon – offersus a simple answer. In an interview with Al-Dunya TV on July 24, Saliba declaredthat “the source... behind all these movements, all these civil wars, and all theseevils” in the Arab world is nothing other than Zionism, “deeply rooted in Judaism.”The Jews, he says, are responsible for financing and inciting the turmoil inaccordance with The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.These remarks are not an isolated case among Middle Eastern Christians. The anti-Semitic trend has become especially apparent in the aftermath of Iraq’s assault lastOctober on the Syriac Catholic Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad, leaving58 dead and 67 wounded in the worst attack on the Iraqi Christian community since2003.Two months after the atrocity, for example, the Melkite Greek Patriarch Gregory IIILaham characterized the terrorist attacks on Iraq’s Christians as part of “a Zionist 2
  • 3. conspiracy against Islam.”He further affirmed, “All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam... but it is actuallya conspiracy planned by Zionism...In an interview with NBN TV on November 9, 2010, Iraqi priest Father Suheil Qashaclaimed that the Jews consider all gentiles to be beasts, and asserted that the “realdanger” to Middle Eastern Christians came from Zionism. He went on to state thatthose who perpetrated the attack on the church in Baghdad were certainly notMuslims, but probably those trained and supervised “by global Zionism.”Anti-Semitism extends to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which, serving around 10percent of Egypt’s population, is the largest single church in the Middle East andNorth Africa. As liberal Egyptian blogger Samuel Tadros points out, a certain FatherMarcos Aziz Khalil wrote in the newspaper Nahdet Masr: “The Jews saw that theChurch is their No. 1 enemy, and that without [the] priesthood the Church loses itsmost important component. Thus the Masonic movement was the secret Zionisthand to create revolution against the clergy.”At this point, many would no doubt be inclined to explain away this anti-Semitism bypointing to the anti- Jewish sentiments that are mainstream among the Muslimpopulations of the region. Living in such an environment – the reasoning goes –Christians would naturally be careful not to denounce deeply held convictionsamong their Muslim neighbors for fear of provoking persecution.However, the cancer of hostility toward Jews among Middle Eastern Christians goesmuch deeper than that.Indeed, it is telling that other non-Muslim minorities that have suffered discriminationand violence at the hands of Islamists – including the Yezidis, Mandeans andBahá’íshave never blamed Jews or Zionism for their persecution; their religionshave not featured anti-Semitic doctrines.It is clear that in general, the Eastern churches have yet to move beyond thenoxious anti-Semitic motifs repudiated by the Vatican in its Nostra Aetatedeclaration issued in 1965, after the Second Vatican Council. If anti-Semitism in theMiddle East and North Africa is to be eradicated, the burden of theological reformwill evidently not be a task for Muslims alone.It’s a sad commentary on a group that are themselves are being persecuted bypeople of the Islamic faith. One would think that since they are closely connected tothe Vatican they would reject this sort of nonsense about Jews being the cause of alltheir troubles. Obviously, however, they are not Western and seemingly not veryenlightened. It is this sort of vicious Jew hatred that makes it difficult for people whoare connected to these churches to come to terms with Israel and Judaism andmakes peace in the region almost impossible to bring about anytime soon. 3
  • 4. Is some Vatican intervention called for?SOCIAL UNREST IN ISRAELI’m sure that the German media over the last few weeks have been reporting on thesocial unrest and large weekend demonstrations in Israel – sometimes linking it tothe Arab Spring. That analysis is all wrong. My Israel colleague Ed Rettig explains itall in an AJC blog.He noted in an August 10 posting, “Saturday night saw the third consecutiveweekend of large-scale tent-city demonstrations throughout Israel with estimatesrunning as high as 400,000 participants. “An outburst of frustration with housingprices”; “the revolt of the middle class;” “an ‘Arab Spring’ in Israel;” “a return tosocialist democracy”—some of the descriptions pundits apply to the phenomenon—are at best only partially accurate, and in the case of the so-called ”Arab Spring,”deeply misleading.We see rising wage differentials between the highest paid employees and thelowest, as globalization drives higher competitiveness. A minority rides the wave toa higher standard of living but many, perhaps most, do not. Thus to some extentIsrael’s problem is shared by other economically advanced countries.But a local cause that was probably more important in bringing so many out to thestreets, even though it is not as widely discussed: the dysfunction of Israel’sparliament, the Knesset, which has created a political vacuum. For decadescoalition politics has failed to protect the level of services offered to the workingmajority. The most economically productive segment of the economy has felt for along time that while its labor makes economic growth possible, the benefits goelsewhere. Theoretically, the Knesset represents the citizens and their interests,and should ensure that the vast working segment of society receives fair value forthe taxes it pays. But the Knesset is in fact chronically manipulated by small groupsthat hold the balance of coalition power, and so it fails to fulfill that function.The direct provocation that led to the demonstrations was the unwarranted (andpossibly price-fixed) rise in the cost of an Israeli breakfast staple, cottage cheese.Hundreds of thousands joined in an organized Facebook boycott that forced theprice back down. That seems to have released the genie from the bottle. The directreason given by so many of the tent city demonstrators for their participation is thesharp rise in the cost of housing.Middle-class Israelis speak of two major dysfunctions that block a more equitabledistribution of the nation’s growing economic resources: concentration of wealth inthe hands of widely resented “tycoons” and the large distribution of welfarepayments to the Haredi (ultra religious)and Muslim Arab communities. 4
  • 5. To date, the “Arab Spring” analogy is misplaced. The tent cities of Israel are theproduct of a thriving democracy, not a demand for it as in the demonstrations in theArab world. They are a magnificent exercise in petitioning the government forredress of grievances. At a time when some in the Israeli Knesset have been busypushing undemocratic bills, they provide an invigorating push back.I’m not sure that taking quotes from Ed’s column does it or him justice. What he haswritten is much more complicated and nuanced than what I have printed above. Youcan read it all by clicking here. http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=2818289&ct=11111385&notoc=1What is important is the fact that the demonstrations and tent cities have nothing todo with “foreign” affairs. The problems are domestic and unlike what has been goingon in the UK there has been no violence. The Government leaders have admittedthat things must change and hopefully the Knesset will work on that. Again, I imploreyou to read Ed’s column if you want to understand this important development inIsraeli life.JEWS WHO ARE NOT JEWS: POLITICAL DIRTY TRICKS?Middle East politics brings out people doing strange things to make their politicalpoints. How about non-Jews claiming to be Jews so that they can use their falseidentity in order to pose as authentic Israel critics?Ben Weinthal, a Berlin based journalist writing in the Jerusalem Post reported,“Defending his participation in the latest flotilla operation in an attempt to breakIsrael’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, Gabriel Matthew Schivone, anAmerican university student, stressed in a late June Ha’aretz opinion piece that he isone of a growing number of young American Jews seeking to disassociate himselffrom Israel.There is, however, a rather large factual wrinkle with Schivone’s account – heappears to have falsified his Jewish identity. Writing in an August letter to the editorin Ha’aretz, Valerie Saturen, a pro-Palestinian activist and acquaintance ofSchivone, noted, “In his editorial about joining the flotilla to Gaza, Gabriel Schivonerepresented himself as a Jewish college student. I feel I must point out that this isnot his true identity, but one he has created in order to generate insider credibility,shield himself from accusations of anti-Semitism, and resonate with a targetaudience.Gabriel is not Jewish, whether in terms of ethnic ancestry, religious belief or culturalidentity. He has never identified as a Jew until it became useful in advancing hispolitical agenda. When asked why he did this, he explained that he has a distantJewish relative and that ‘you use what you have.’” 5
  • 6. Schivone’s alleged use of a fake Jewish identity recalls the German case of EdithLutz last year. Lutz, a former school teacher, claimed to have converted to Judaism,and proceeded to use her invented Jewish credentials to garner enormous attentionin the German media to publicize her voyage to violate Israel’s blockade of Gaza.Lutz was a passenger aboard the Irene catamaran in 2010 during last year’s flotilla.Many German newspapers, including the widely viewed television program ARD-Magazin Monitor, which featured a broadcast in which Lutz was named as arepresentative of “Jews from Germany,” devoted extensive coverage to Lutz. Thedogged reporting of German Journalist Henryk M. Broder exposed Lutz as a fraud,prompting Broder to comment, “Edith Lutz is definitely a Jew, like a smoked porkchop is kosher.”The ARD declined to concede at the time that its method of journalistic verificationwas flawed, and the message of German Jews against Israel spread acrosstelevision sets in Germany “For those of us who are Jewish it borders on the bizarre that anyone would lie theirway into being “a member of the tribe”. Judaism (and, frankly just being Jewish)imposes certain responsibilities on a Jew. Most would agree that there is aresponsibility for the security of other Jews. Jewish education and religiousobservance even for the non-observant are, at least, out there to take part in or not –but they’re out there. I wonder whether Lutz & Schivone feel any of those sorts ofresponsibilities.Of course, I understand the reasons for the two of them cloaking themselves inrobes of false Judaism. They’re sort of undercover non-Jewish, pro-Hamasinfiltrators using the cloak to deceive the world and do harm to Israel. What betterway for Israel to be de-legitimized than for Jews to denounce it?My guess is that even responsible Palestinians are disgusted by such dirty tricks. Iknow that I am.OLDER AMERICAN RABBISHaving young ordained rabbis grow old is an inevitable and old (pun intended) story.Time marches on for all of us. However, the American rabbinate is experiencing anew development: Middle age people seeking a second career as rabbis.JTA reports, “…a small group of second-career rabbis who are finding their place inthe world of Jewish religious leadership in their 40s and 50s.Various factors are propelling these individuals into the rabbinate. Some long hadharbored dreams of becoming a rabbi but wound up pursuing other careers for 6
  • 7. personal or financial reasons. Others became interested in the rabbinate later in life,prompted in some cases by something specific.Not all the new rabbis are pursuing congregational jobs. More professional optionsexist now for rabbinical school graduates, including in the chaplaincy, education andJewish communal work.Pursuing the rabbinate as a second career is not a new story in American Jewishlife, but its more common for those in their mid- to late 20s or early 30s afterworking for some time in professions such as law or medicine, said Jonathan Sarna,a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University and the chief historianat the National Museum of American Jewish History.Sarna said it is unusual for those in their 40s, 50s or 60s to go for the rabbinate, andthat its more common for older second-career clergy members among Christiandenominations.The prevalence of older, second-career rabbis varies by denomination andrabbinical school.At Bostons Hebrew College, 15 students older than 50 have attended since therabbinical school opened in 2003, said Rabbi Dan Judson, its director ofprofessional development and placement. In recent years, the average age ofincoming students has dropped, drawing a more typical age range for rabbinicalstudents -- those in their late 20s. Still, Judson stressed, it is not unusual for 25-year-olds to have study partners in their 40s or 50s.In the past two years, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, ConservativeJudaisms flagship educational institution, has enrolled a handful of students in their40s and 50s who are pursuing the rabbinate later in life or as second careers,according to Rabbi Daniel Nevins, dean of the JTS rabbinical school.At the New York campus of the Reform movements Hebrew Union College, two ofthe 12 rabbis who were ordained in this years graduating class were second careerrabbis in their late 40s or early 50s, according to HUCs associate dean, RenniAltman. She said the number of older students varies from year to year and HUChas always had some older students, but never large clusters.The average age of rabbinical students at Yeshiva Universitys Rabbi IsaacElchanan Theological Seminary is the mid-20s, according to Rabbi Yona Reiss,dean of the Orthodox, male-only rabbinical program in New York. For the occasionalolder student, the motivation is generally personal growth as opposed toprofessional advancement.By contrast, over the past decade at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College,approximately one-third of the rabbinical students have been in their second 7
  • 8. careers, including some over 50, according to Rabbi Amber Powers, who overseesadmissions at the suburban Philadelphia school."Part of what makes classroom discussions so dynamic at RRC is the diversebackgrounds of the students," Powers said. "Learning Jewish history really comesalive when a student who was an anthropologist brings their expertise to thediscussion.”I think it’s much easier in the U.S. than in Germany to turn around and start a mid-life change in one’s profession. It is not unusual here (My wife went for being ateacher to being a Certified Public Accountant and then a small community mayor).Some congregations probably, I am sure, welcome spiritual leaders who havegreater life experience. In addition, and this is important, women who have gonethrough their child bearing years and are entering the job market make greatemployees. Again, life experience plus a desire to show what they can do in acomplicated profession make them very valuable. I found, when I was the director ofAJC’s 32 field offices throughout the U.S. they proved to be, time and time again, thebest regional directors we could hire.Having said all the above, becoming a rabbi in mid life is more difficult than justchanging professions. A great deal of schooling is required and then interning beforeordination. My guess is that people who choose this path are not only highlymotivated but, in general, are made of “very tough stuff”. I applaud them.ASSIMILATION: A RUSSIAN-JEWISH-AMERICAN PROBLEMThe uprooting of people, even when they themselves choose to be uprooted andthen settled elsewhere, obviously causes great problems for them. In addition, in thegenerations that follow a different set of problems emerge as their children grow toadulthood and are caught in between the new and the old cultures. In the U.S.,where there is already a sizeable Jewish community, a major problem has emergedin their relationship to rest of American Jews.With latest Russian-Jewish immigration to the U.S. now more than 20 years old,problems with the youngsters and how they relate to the rest of the American Jewishcommunity are beginning to appear. The Jewish Week recently reported, “Unliketheir parents and grandparents, who came to the United States as adults in the1970s and ‘80s, these young Russian Jews — born or raised in America, fluent inEnglish and now in their 20s and 30s — grew up in the same culture and country astheir non-Russian Jewish American peers.Now, they must figure out how to integrate into the American Jewish mainstream —and whether they even want to.While Russian Jews of all ages express a desire to grow closer to the rest of 8
  • 9. America’s Jews — or at least admit that such blending is inevitable — a debate isnow taking shape among younger Russians that is pulling them in two differentdirections, and that may result in less than full integration into the wider community.Several key issues are at play: a desire to influence the political debate in the widercommunity, as well as a desire to retain a unique identity as Russian Jews. Andthen there is the wild-card issue: the Russian community’s hard-line conservatismon Israel — which has put some Russian Jews at odds with the mainstream.Young Russian Jews are working out how they would deliver those right-wing viewsto the mainstream. The Russian contingent’s showing in the Israel parade — a kindof mega-event for the New York Jewish community — signifies a desire toparticipate in the same events as the mainstream. But the group that sponsored theorange float, Russian American Jewish Experience (RAJE), has also been quick tolook at Russian-Jewish Israel activism as a corrective for the failures of AmericanJewry — not exactly talk of integration.The Russian Jewish community in America has long been more right wing than therest of American Jewry. Polls leading up to the 2004 and 2008 elections conductedby the Research Institute for New Americans showed that the majority of RussianJews in New York City planned to vote for the Republican presidential candidate —a departure from the larger Jewish community’s Democratic character. In the 2008presidential election, for instance, Obama garnered 78 percent of the Jewish vote.Some see this difference in opinion and approach especially regarding Israel as aproblem. I don’t! There have always been great divergences of opinion in theAmerican Jewish community. As long as those differences do not result in a schismthe intra-discussion is healthy. I myself would hate to see the liberal leanings ofmainstream American Jewry turn more conservative or reactionary. However, onehas to have faith in democracy and reasonable exchanges of views. The debate hasalready begun.JEWS OF COLORWhen one thinks of American Jews one thinks of individuals with German or EastEuropean background – all of them with “white” skin (It’s really not “white”. It’s sort ofpink – light tan). Well, things are changing in the U.S. With immigration from placeswhere skin tones are darker, and due to the fact that there is growing interracialmarriage, the “color” of American Jewry is changing.It’s not happening quickly but fast enough that in California there is a children’ssummer camp for Jewish kids of color.The New York Times (Samuel G. Freedman) reports, “Such is the mission of CampBe’chol Lashon (“In Every Tongue”) here in the hills of Marin County about 35 milesnorth of San Francisco. For the past two years, it has provided the commonplaces of 9
  • 10. Jewish summer camp, right down to poison oak and bug juice, to an emergingpopulation of Jews of color.“If there’s Christians of all colors and all kinds, and Muslims of all colors and allkinds,” Amalia, 11, said over Shabbat lunch, “then why would Jewishness be anydifferent?”One of her fellow campers, Josh Rowen-Keran, 14, who was born to black andKorean parents and then adopted by an interracial couple in the Bay Area, soundedsimilarly nonchalant. “Being Jewish isn’t looking a certain way,” he said. “I could lookat anyone and not know if they are or aren’t Jewish. You can’t know till you know theperson.”Yet what strikes these children as the same old same old, an American-Jewishcommunity of multiple hues and heritages, has arrived as a seismic change.Religiously and historically, Judaism has generally placed little emphasis onevangelism and conversion.While Israel’s law granting instant citizenship to any Jew has brought it a sizablenumber of Ethiopians and Indians, the American Jewish picture has looked muchwhiter. As the largest group of Jewish immigrants to the United States, those fromEastern Europe have set the cultural tone since the early 1900s. Their folkways —bagels, Yiddish, New Deal politics, Borsht Belt jokes — became a virtual religion.Which meant that nobody from outside could ever get completely inside.Entering the new century, however, the demographers Gary and Diane Tobinconducted a survey that estimated that 10 percent of America’s six million Jewswere nonwhite. Their route into the community had been through conversion,adoption and interracial parentage, rather than Ellis Island. (Other scholars place thenumber slightly lower, at roughly 450,000.)So, we’re changing! Good! Every religion, culture and people need an infusion of“new blood” every once in a while. It keeps groups from becoming stale in theirthinking and in the way they live their lives. Interestingly, in the American Jewishcommunity, the opposite is happening as well. Some of the ultra Orthodox groupsremain very much to themselves with little chance of an “in-mixing”. Hopefully, thesecross currents will not do harm to the unity that Jews need so badly.I hope that one of these days we will not need special camps of kids of color.You can read the entire NYT story by clicking here.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/us/13religion.html?src=recg 10
  • 11. THE ISRAELI WALL: OR IS IT A FENCE?The building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago gave a bad reputation to all walls. DerSpiegel recently ran a series on the various walls around the world with an articleabout the one that separates Israel from the Palestinian West Bank area.The separation barrier is about 760 kilometers (472 miles long) -- roughly twice thelength of the 1949 cease-fire line which separates Israel from the West Bank in thePalestinian territories. Most of its length consists of an electric fence, but about 30kilometers worth is comprised of a concrete wall measuring up to eight meters (26feet) in height. The wall-vs.-fence issue is more apparent in the densely populatedareas in and around Jerusalem: For the Palestinians, the barrier is an obstacle thatmakes daily life more difficult, but for the Israelis, its a defense against terrorism.Plans to seal Israel off from the land it had occupied were gaining ground as farback as the 1990s. After a number of bloody attacks by Palestinians on Israelis,Nobel Prize-winning President Yitzhak Rabin, who was later murdered, declaredthat he wanted "... to take Gaza out of Tel Aviv." In 2000, the outbreak of the secondIntifada -- the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation -- increasedpressure on Israels government to curb attacks by suicide-bombers from the WestBank. To start, a couple of fences were put up along the border here and there.Then, with military-like precision, the construction of todays barrier began in 2002.n Israel, the separation barrier is seen as a success, in spite of the enormous costs.The military and political classes are happy to remind the public that since thebarrier was erected, infiltration into Israel by suicide bombers has fallen to almostzero.Needless to say, the Palestinians are very unhappy with the barrier. Some of it isbuilt on what they consider “their land”. Court cases in Israeli courts have rulesagainst the government and adjustments have been made. The internationalcommunity is very opposed to the barrier and it is another one of things that Israeli isdenounced about.I don’t think anyone likes walls, fences or barriers. However, there is no dispute overthe fact that Palestinian terror has almost totally stopped since it was constructed.The Israelis had to do something to combat the bombers and the killing. Maybe thebarrier was not the best choice but it certainly has proven itself to be the mosteffective. The Palestinians themselves could not (or would not) stop the killing so theGovernment did what governments’ do – take steps to safeguard their citizens. And,for that, they are criticized.My bottom line? Anything that stops killing is worthwhile. Period!************************************************************************************************ 11
  • 12. DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect. 12