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DuBow Digest Germany Edition August 12, 2013

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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

Published in: News & Politics

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  • 1. 1 GERMANY EDITION August 12, 2013 IN THIS EDITION MIDDLE EAST PIECE OF PEACE? – Negotiations are underway. Can anything come out of them? THE RELEASED PRISONERS: IMPLICATIONS – Progress or political trouble? EUROPEAN JEWRY: A DIRE FORECAST – Not a great place to live these days? EUROPE A SECOND CLASS CONTINENT: - A noted historian speaks. JEWS WHO HATE ISRAEL – There are some and they’re religiously motivated. INTERMARRIAGE – American Jewry’s greatest problem. Dear friends: Sadly the summer is coming to a close. We had our first “chilly” morning here in the Lower Hudson Valley yesterday A touch of September. I know that you are all gearing up for your election. We are as well – but not even for the 2014 Congressional races. The attack ads against Hillary Clinton aiming at her possible run for the Presidency in 2016 have already begun. We like early starts. I wish I could say that there is a lot of interest here in your national elections. There isn’t! In fact, perusing the newspapers one would hardly know it was going to happen. In looking over the German media I almost get the same feeling. There doesn’t seem to be the same hot-blooded, go-for-the-kill atmosphere that we see in this very politically divided country where the candidate of the party you don’t like becomes imbued with all the characteristics of the devil himself. You are better off! As far as the American Jewish community is concerned we’re getting ready for the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur) which come in early September this year. There is considerable interest in the Middle East peace process. By and large, most mainstream Jewish organizations are strongly in favor of a Two-State solution and are pleased that negotiations are underway. I will be sending my next American Edition (which mostly goes to American Jews) after your election results are in. If you have comments please send them to me at dubowdigest@optonline.net I’ll print them if it’s O.K. with you. Let’s get on with the news…
  • 2. 2 MIDDLE EAST PIECE OF PEACE? I could fill up pages of what various gurus, talking heads and self-appointed experts have to say about the Israeli – Palestinian peace process. Frankly, they don’t know much more than you or I do. Read a couple of newspapers (or consult the Internet) every morning and you’ll know what they know. Having said the above I’ll chime in myself and give you my un-educated to semi- educated opinion. All the problems that were there before such as Israeli security worries, Palestinian concerns over settlement building, the Arab world chaos in the countries surrounding Israel (notably Syria and Egypt) are still there. In addition, there is anything but unanimity among Israelis as to whether any deal should be made at this time (substitute “any time” for some on the right wing) and the Arab belief that all the land in the area is “Arab land” and so any agreement cannot include that Israel is a Jewish nation and therefore legally be entitled to permanence on the ground it now (and will) include in its national boundaries. There is one important change however. Obviously Secy. of State John Kerry, and by extension Pres. Obama, have decided to involve the United States more robustly in trying to bring about some sort of an agreement. I doubt if it can be “comprehensive” as on the Palestinian side it will not include Gaza or Hamas, but anything that lessens the chances of war and violence would be a vast improvement. Previous American Presidents have tried their hands at trying to get an agreement and have failed so there is no guarantee that Kerry and Obama will succeed. However, when the U.S. puts its prestige on the line the other parties have to take that seriously – and, at least on the Israeli side, are doing that. The fact that P.M. Netanyahu is releasing Palestinian prisoners, some with blood on their hands, goes against what many Israelis believe is a wrong and immoral move. The announcement of the construction of new apartments in areas that would become part of Israel politically softened the blow. As far as Pres. Abbas is concerned, I’m not exactly sure what he’s given up if, indeed anything. As I understand it, the first two meetings of the negotiators talked about – more meetings. It is reported that they will meet regularly alternating between Jerusalem and the West Bank. In any case the two sides are talking directly and that is good. It will be interesting to see how the EU reacts. Will it change its position on the labeling of West Bank goods as not being produced in Israel? Again, I could go on and on with outside opinion. However, since the negotiations are “secret” let’s wait until something substantive happens.
  • 3. 3 Until then – stay tuned! THE RELEASED PRISONERS: IMPLICATIONS I don’t want to harp on the difficulty P.M. Netanyahu had to go through in order to get his cabinet and a majority of the Israeli people to agree to prisoner release. To me it is interesting is how the release resonated in both Israel and, especially, the Arab world. Israel Hayom reported, “Though the majority of the 26 Palestinian prisoners released on Tuesday night were transferred to Gaza Strip, the biggest celebrations were expected in Ramallah. Analysts believe that Hamas, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, seeks to minimize the achievement marked by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The Beitunia checkpoint near Ramallah was swarmed Tuesday evening by happy family members waiting for their relatives. From Beitunia, the prisoners were taken to the Mukata government compound in Ramallah, where Abbas hosted a festive reception in their honor. The official Palestinian television channel played a central role in Tuesday night's celebrations, broadcasting special segments throughout the day. Various guests, among them Palestinian prisoners who had been released in previous deals with Israel, were invited to the channel's studio. Every hour ahead of the prisoners' release, the station broadcast news clips featuring the guests. Eventually, the channel also broadcast the passage across Beitunia, as well as the Mukata reception. Upon the prisoners' release, Abbas said the deal had helped facilitate the peace talks, which were set to continue Wednesday in Jerusalem. "Releasing these prisoners strengthens prospects for peace. All 104 prisoners are going to be freed, among them 1948 Arabs [Israeli Arabs] and residents of east Jerusalem, without exception, in four phases. None of the prisoners will be deported or forced to leave their homeland," the PA president said. Hamas meanwhile ignored the celebratory atmosphere in Ramallah, banning citizens from organizing celebrations despite the two Hamas operatives who were among the 26 prisoners released on Tuesday. While activists organized a festive tent in Khan Younis to celebrate the first phase of the deal, Hamas ordered it taken down, in addition to banning placards, posters or other printed material celebrating the event. The administration seized banners from families celebrating the return of their relatives to the Gaza Strip. The Hamas Interior Ministry denied reports that it had banned celebrations, saying an official team had been formed to organize a welcome for the returning Palestinians. It is pretty obvious that Hamas doesn’t want the Palestine Authority to show any achievements.
  • 4. 4 I think the Palestinian reactions, being so different, underline the difficulty both Israel and the U.S. will have in trying to come to any solution. Even if the West Bank situation is settled (highly unlikely) what about the million plus people in Gaza and Hamas which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Not easy to do business with people who vow your destruction. On the Israeli side there are criticisms from both the left and the right. J.J. Goldberg writing in The Jewish Daily Forward notes, “Avi Issacharoff, the former Maariv military analyst who now writes for the online Walla! News, writes (in Hebrew) that any possible pride either side might take in what should be a hopeful event is overshadowed on both sides by the humiliation of what they’ve already had to give away — for Israel’s Netanyahu, releasing prisoners with blood on their hands in the face of widespread popular outrage, and for Palestinian leader Abbas, resuming negotiations without an Israeli settlement freeze and in fact amid a much ballyhooed wave of new construction plans …according to Alex Fishman, the veteran Yediot Ahronot military analyst, writing at Yediot’s Ynet website, Netanyahu turned the supposed goodwill gesture of a prisoner release into another opportunity to humiliate Abbas by picking a list of low-level thugs to release, and then sending half of them to Gaza instead of to the West Bank where Abbas could have arranged a festive reception to reap the credit. If anyone had any thoughts about how easy this process is on either side, they should forget them. If it was only politics that was in the way, that would be one thing. However, in this case we have religion, divisive history, family loss, many deaths, the threat of military violence, terrorism – and that’s probably not all. Tough sledding ahead! To read Goldberg’s complete article click here http://blogs.forward.com/jj-goldberg/182367/as-peace-talks-begin-good-will-in-short- supply/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=The%20Forward%20Tod ay%20%28Monday- Friday%29&utm_campaign=Daily_Newsletter_Mon_Thurs%202013-08-15 EUROPEAN JEWRY: A DIRE FORECAST Michel Gurfinkiel, a well-known French Jewish leader, writer and intellectual looks at French Jewry (and by implication all of European Jewry) today, sees health and security but believes disaster might be just over the horizon.. Writing in Mosaic, in an article headlined You Only Live Twice, he notes, “European Judaism looks healthy, and secure. Religious and cultural activities are everywhere on the rise. And yet, despite all their success and achievement, the majority of European Jews,
  • 5. 5 seconded by many Jewish and non-Jewish experts, insist that catastrophe may lie ahead. One does not have to look far to see why. A large-scale survey commissioned by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) tells a tale of widespread and persistent anti-Semitism. Although the full study is not due to be released until October, the salient facts have been summarized by EU officials and by researchers like DovMaimon, a French-born Israeli scholar at the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem. Among the findings: more than one in four Jews report experiencing anti- Semitic harassment at least once in the twelve months preceding the survey; one in three have experienced such harassment over the past five years; just under one in ten have experienced a physical attack or threat in the same period; and between two-fifths and one-half in France, Belgium, and Hungary have considered emigrating because they feel unsafe. Statistics from my native France, home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, go back farther in time and tell an even darker tale. Since 2000, 7,650 anti-Semitic incidents have been reliably reported to the Jewish Community Security Service and the French ministry of the interior; this figure omits incidents known to have occurred but unreported to the police. The incidents range from hate speech, anti-Semitic graffiti, and verbal threats to defacement of synagogues and other Jewish buildings, to acts of violence and terror including arson, bombings, and murder. And that is just France. All over Europe, with exceptions here and there, the story is much the same. Nor do the figures take into account the menacing atmosphere created by the incessant spewing of hatred against the people and the state of Israel at every level of society, including the universities and the elite and mass media, to the point where polls show as many as 40 percent of Europeans holding the opinion that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians; or the recent moves to ban circumcision and kosher slaughter; or the intense social pressures created by the rise of radical and often violent Islam…” For many European Jews, there is indeed a déjà vu quality to the present situation. Like Israelis, but unlike most American Jews, today’s European Jews are survivors, or children of survivors, either of the Holocaust or of the near-complete expulsion of Jews from Islamic countries that took place in the second half of the 20th century. They know, from personal experience or from the testimony of direct and irrefutable witnesses, how things unfolded in the not too distant past, and how a seemingly normal Jewish life could be destroyed overnight. When anti-Semitic incidents or other problems accumulate, they can’t help asking whether history is repeating itself. Can it really be that European Jewry was reborn after the Holocaust only in order to die again? Can it be that, even as Jews, you only live twice? History, of course, is unpredictable except in retrospect. But it would be irresponsible in the extreme to brush off the possibility of demise; “unthinkable” is no longer a word in the Jewish vocabulary. A mitigating view of today’s situation might have it that, at the very least, divine
  • 6. 6 providence did beneficently afford to about two million European Jews a brief golden age, a true rebirth, which in turn brought fresh luster to European civilization as well as encouragement and inspiration to millions of their fellow Jews around the world, most especially in the Jewish state. True enough; but what is no less certain is that the end of European Jewry, a millennia-old civilization and a crowning achievement of the human spirit, will deliver a lasting blow to the collective psyche of the Jewish people. That it will also render a shattering judgment on the so-called European idea, exposed as a deadly travesty for anyone with eyes to see, is cold comfort indeed. I’m not sure that I have been fair to Mr. Gurfinkiel in the excerpts I have provided from his article. It is an erudite short history of European Jewish life pointing out strongly the past and possible future of Jewish disaster. It certainly is to be ranked in the “glass have empty” category. Even for those who have a more positive view of the future one must admit (and consider) the fact that history has been anything but kind to the Jewish people. In order to come to some sort of opinion as to whether he is right or wrongone should read the full article which you can do by clicking here. http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2013/08/you-only-live- twice/?utm_source=Mosaic+Daily+Email&utm_campaign=8f944887be- Mosaic_2013_8_5&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0b0517b2ab-8f944887be- 41169781 Please let me know what you think. Write to me at dubowdigest@optonline.net . If you wish I’ll publish what you have to say. EUOPE: A SECOND CLASS CONTINENT On the supposition that many of you read Der Spiegel or Spiegel On-Line I normally do not quote from either or must other German periodicals. However, Spiegel On-Line recently ran an interview with the noted historian Walter Lacquer that is “required reading” for all Europeans. So, I’ll excerpt a little of it here and then give you the link so you can read it in its entirety. Prof. Lacquer states, “Europe will not be buried by ashes, like Pompeii or Herculaneum, but Europe is in decline. It's certainly horrifying to consider its helplessness in the face of the approaching storms. After being the center of world politics for so long, the old continent now runs the risk of becoming a pawn” Europe will likely remain influential in the future as an economic power and trading partner. But the continent still isn't standing on its own feet politically and militarily today. This wouldn't be that important if power politics didn't play a role and conflicts were resolved peacefully by the United Nations or the International Court of Justice. But the conflicts have not decreased. Their inherent fanaticism and passions continue to burn, as we can now see, once again, in Syria and in Egypt. Under these circumstances, is it
  • 7. 7 realistic to call for European independence in global politics? Freedom, human rights, social justice are all wonderful, and I don't want to minimize the achievements of European societies. But a role model? Europe is much too weak to play a civilizing or moral role in world politics. Nice speeches and well-intentioned admonitions carry little weight when made from a position of weakness. In fact, all they do is aggravate China and Russia. Such reproofs are presumptuous, insincere and, unfortunately, often ridiculous. Under the current circumstances, Europe would be well advised to keep a lower profile. I think that’s enough to whet your appetite. If you’re a European my advice is to take a tranquillizer before clicking on the link and reading the remainder of what Prof. Lacquer has to say. Click here to read it. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/interview-with-historian- walter-laqueur-on-the-decline-of-europe-a-912837.html JEWS WHO HATE ISRAEL If you follow the Jewish press, you might be surprised to read (JTA), “A haredi Orthodox Israeli from the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect was charged with offering to spy for Iran. The unnamed suspect was charged in Jerusalem District Court with espionage and assisting an enemy in time of war, according to the indictment reported by Israeli media on Thursday after the lifting of a gag order. He had been arrested by the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police in mid-July. The man reportedly visited the Iranian Embassy in Berlin in January 2011, dressed in Hasidic garb, and offered to spy on behalf of the Islamic Republic. The indictment said that he met with three men at the embassy and told them that he planned to replace the Israeli government with one controlled by gentiles, and that he was willing to murder a Zionist. He was given an Iranian e-mail account and the phone number of the embassy. He checked the e-mail account after he returned to Israel, and called the embassy from payphones. He reportedly received financial compensation for his efforts. The man reportedly has confessed to the allegations in the indictment. Neturei Karta is a tiny Hasidic sect whose members are fiercely anti-Zionist because they believe a Jewish state can only be established by the messiah. Some of them live in Israel Over the years I became vaguely aware that there was some kind of a weird Orthodox sect that hated Israel. I didn’t think much about them until a few years ago at an Israel Day Parade in New York. Marching along I saw members of the group with pro-
  • 8. 8 Palestinian placards and others denouncing Israel. I remember thinking that for Jews it was perfectly acceptable (free speech) to be opposed to Israel but to be favorable to Palestinians who had murdered Jews; that was a bit over the line. So, who are these people and what do they think? Wikipedia reports, “Neturei Karta (Jewish Babylonian Aramaic: na?uriqar?a, literally "Guardians of the City") is a Jewish sect, formally created in Jerusalem, British Mandate of Palestine, in 1938, splitting off from AgudasYisrael. Neturei Karta opposes Zionism and calls for a peaceful dismantling of the State of Israel, in the belief that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Jewish Messiah.[1][2] They live as a part of larger Haredi communities around the globe. In Israel some members also pray at affiliated beitmidrash, in Jerusalem's MeahShearim neighborhood and in Ramat BeitShemesh Bet. Neturei Karta states that no official count of the number of members exists.[3] The Jewish Virtual Library puts their numbers at 5,000 in Jerusalem[4] The Anti-Defamation League estimates that fewer than 100 members of the community take part in anti-Israel activism. From their own website they state, “Neturei Karta opposes the so-called "State of Israel" not because it operates secularly, but because the entire concept of a sovereign Jewish state is contrary to Jewish Law. I believe that they can believe whatever they want. However, crossing the line and become a spy for another power that has sworn to remove Israel from the face of the earth is not just “over the line”, it’s downright treason. While I do not believe the current spying case involves more than one disturbed individual I do think that the leadership of the sect should be questioning what they teach and advocate. Does their anti-Israel rhetoric push people toward the treason line? They’d better think seriously about it. INTERMARRIAGE By and large the Jews in the U.S. have become well integrated into American society. The open society that we enjoy here has led to a very substantial number of intermarriages between Jews and mates of a different religion. The number of such marriages has, for many years, deeply worried communal leaders as all the studies and polls done show clearly that the children of such unions, even where the non-Jewish mate converts, are less likely to remain Jewish and become active members of the community. UrielHeilman, JTA’s managing editor, writing in JTA notes, “When the nation’s largest Jewish federation convened its first-ever conference recently on engaging interfaith families, perhaps the most notable thing about it was the utter lack of controversy that greeted the event. There was a time when the stereotypical Jewish approach to intermarriage was to shun the offender and sit shiva.(Ed note: Mourning period for the dead)
  • 9. 9 A generation ago, the publication of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey showing intermarriage at the alarmingly high rate of 52 percent turned into a rallying cry. No matter that subsequent scholarship revised the figure down to 43 percent, interfaith marriage was seen as the core of the problem of Jewish assimilation in America. Jewish institutions poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Jewish identity building with an eye toward stemming intermarriage. Fast forward two decades and the question is no longer how to fight intermarriage, but how Jewish institutions can be as welcoming as possible to intermarried Jews and the gentiles who love them. “Clearly, Jewish communal attitudes have changed,” said David Mallach, managing director of the Commission on the Jewish People at UJA-Federation of New York, which hosted the one-day interfaith conference in June. “One of the results of the whole process begun with the 1990 study was that in a free America we’re all Jews by choice. That’s been a profound insight that has permeated a lot of the work of the Jewish community in the last 20-plus years,” Mallach said. “It shifted the discussion from the classic stereotypical sitting shiva and never talking to a person again to saying that if we’re all Jews by choice, let’s also sit with this segment of the community and offer them that choice.” In 1973, the Reform movement’s rabbinical arm, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, issued a nonbinding resolution opposing officiating at intermarriages. Today, more than half the movement’s rabbis perform interfaith weddings. In 2010, a task force at the CCAR recommended shifting away from focus on preventing intermarriage to reaching out to intermarried families and adapting rituals to include non-Jewish family members. Now the movement is considering a further step. Rabbi Aaron Panken, the new president of the rabbinical seminary of the Reform movement, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, told JTA last week that HUC is planning to take a “very serious look” at whether to end the school’s longstanding policy against admitting intermarried rabbinical school students. In the Conservative movement, it’s no longer uncommon to see non-Jews on the bimah during a bar mitzvah service. Some Conservative synagogues even grant voting rights to non-Jewish members. Officially, the movement’s only rules on the subject are that rabbis must neither perform nor attend interfaith weddings. But the latter regulation often is ignored. “First someone has to make a complaint, and nobody has ever brought a complaint against a colleague for having attended an intermarriage,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. “It would be hard to imagine that someone would be punished for it.”
  • 10. 10 Even in the Orthodox movement, the idea of shunning the intermarried is passe, seen as counterproductive to the ultimate goal of getting unaffiliated Jews to embrace their Jewish identity. “The preponderance of intermarriage has made it usually pointless to shun those who have married out,” said Rabbi AviShafran, director of public affairs for the haredi Orthodox Agudath Israel of America. “Once upon a time, intermarriage was a sign that the Jewish partner was rejecting his or her Jewish heritage. That is no longer the case, of course, and hasn’t been for decades.” While there have been no national studies of Jewish intermarriage rates since the 2000- 01 National Jewish Population Survey, which reported an intermarriage rate of 47 percent, anecdotal evidence and general population surveys suggest intermarriage is on the rise. A landmark 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that one- third of all marriages in the United States are now interfaith, and Jews are the most intermarrying ethnic group of all (Mormons are the least). The survey also found a growing number of Americans switching religions: Twenty-eight percent no longer belong to the religion in which they were born, or 44 percent if switching Protestant denominations is counted. “What was once seen as abnormal, socially taboo, something you did not publicize has become socially acceptable,” Erika Seamon, author of “Interfaith Marriage in America: The Transformation of Religion and Christianity,” said at the UJA-Federation conference in June. “This is a huge shift.” Today, the very notion of fighting a battle against intermarriage in America seems as likely to succeed as a war against rain: It’s going to happen, like it or not. The question is how to react. Given that the children of intermarriages are only one-third as likely as the children of inmarried couples to be raised as Jews, according to the 2000-01 NJPS, the overall strategy appears to be the same across the denominations: Engage with the intermarried in an effort to have them embrace Judaism. That’s true from the Reform movement to Chabad, with the exception of some haredi Orthodox. Where the denominations differ is how far one may go in that embrace, and how strongly — if at all — to push for conversion of the non-Jewish spouse. At Orthodox synagogues, non-Jews cannot ascend to the bimah, and many synagogues go so far as to deny certain ritual roles to Jews married to non-Jews. The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism leaves it to the discretion of its member synagogues to set the rules on how to treat non-Jews. Rabbi Steven Wernick, the association’s executive vice president, says conversion of the non-Jewish spouse should be a goal. The only question is tactical — how and when to bring it up.
  • 11. 11 “Do you have the conversation about conversion first, or do you welcome them in and then have the conversation about conversion?” Wernick said. “You build the relationship first and then you have the conversation.” In the Reform movement, there is some question about the significance of formal conversion. “There are plenty of people who want to sojourn in the synagogue and not convert and still know they’re part of the Jewish family,” said the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who has advocated a vision for the movement as a big tent with the flaps wide open. “He’s living in the Jewish community. He’s trying on Jewish commitments,” Jacobs said. “Conversion can’t be the only thing we talk about, but it also should not be off the table. We’d be delighted to have people join the Jewish people.” Perhaps more than anything, the shift in attitudes has changed the conventional view of intermarriage as a net loss to the Jewish community, in the form of the out-marrying Jew, to a potential gain, in the form of the non-Jewish spouse or children who may convert. “Once you’ve intermarried, it doesn’t mean you’ve left the Jewish faith,” said Rabbi MenachemPenner, acting dean at Yeshiva University’s rabbinical school, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. “As times go on, we have to constantly evaluate what is the best response,” he said. “Given that it happens, what’s the best way for the community to approach it? The last thing we’d want that person to do is to throw everything away just because they’re intermarried.” I decided to reprint the entire article because it is generally accepted that intermarriage is the major internal problem of American Jewry. With the obvious future lessening of Jewish participation by the children of inter-marrieds, the field (so to speak) is left open to the off springs of the Orthodox. Will American Jewish life move more in that direction? Will the number and importance of Jews decrease? These and other questions regarding the Jewish future in the U.S. have implications not only for American Jews but for the U.S. itself and, of course, Israel. The changes in the last half century have been dramatic. What the rest of this century will bring may very well be just as sweeping. **************************************************************************************************** DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted by clicking here. Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com
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