AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION &
August 11, 2010
I thought I’d wait until the end of August to send this edition but since it’s never
quiet in the Jewish world there’s a lot to report on even in mid-month. Recently
American Jews have been focused on the UN probe of the Gaza flotilla event
with the Israelis finally agreeing to be part of it.
Most are delighted that the newest member of our Supreme Court, Elana Kagan,
was sworn in which now gives us three Jewish members out of the nine seats on
the highest court in the nation – a record. (She’s also the third woman – also a
There was a lot of anxiety over the skirmish at the Lebanese border (1 Israeli and
3 Lebanese killed) but cooler heads prevailed so no new war broke out.
Last, but not least, there has been great variations (in and out of the Jewish
community) as to whether a mosque should be built in close proximity to “Ground
Zero” in lower Manhattan close to the place where 3,000 people were killed on
So, in spite of a very hot (but dry) summer here in New York things are
happening so let’s get on with the news.
IN THIS EDITION
WHAT’S IN A NAME? PLENTY! – If Conservative Jewry changes its name, will
anything really change?
THE SWASTIKA – DOWNGRADED OR UPGRADED? – It’s no longer just a
mark of just anti-Semitism.
LINKAGE – Does linking the Israel-Palestinian dispute to all the other ills of the
world bring them closer to solutions – or is linkage just a ploy?
DEATH OF A JEWISH ORGANIZATION – PART II – The demise of the
American Jewish Congress provides an insight into the workings of other Jewish
organizations in the U.S.
REFUGEES - How other Arabs see the Palestinian refugees and the differences
between them and the Germans who were dispossessed in 1945.
COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS – CLICK HERE
WHAT’S IN A NAME? PLENTY!
There are three major denominations in American Jewry – Orthodox, Reform and
Conservative. The Conservative movement placed somewhere in-between the
other two, in order to somehow clarify exactly what it is, is considering a name
change. After all, we are living in the world of mass and immediate media where
“branding” has become important so that institutions and businesses can be
more easily identified. If you didn’t know that “DD” stands for DuBow Digest you
might think it identifies “Drop Dead” – not a motto I would want my readers to
associate with my beloved journal. Names identify! They’re important!
According to the Forward, Arnold Eisen, the Chancellor of the Jewish
Theological Seminary, Conservative Judaism’s leading flagship academic center,
acknowledged that the movement’s name is now being debated, along with
much else, among its leaders.
“I’m open to it. I’m open to it,” Eisen told the journalists when asked about the
possibility of a name change.
Leaders of Conservative-affiliated organizations want to find a name that will
better capture what they want the movement to represent, he said.
“The leading candidate right now, I think, is just to go with the name ‘Masorti,’
which captures things better than the word ‘Conservative’ captures them. So I
am open to suggestions; I am open to a name change,” Eisen said.
Masorti, the Hebrew word for “traditional,” is how Conservative Judaism is known
outside North America. But in a country as deeply resistant to unknown foreign
coinages as America is, would the word communicate a meaningful message to
its intended audiences, both Jewish and non-Jewish?
Of course, there are many suggestions. Most also note that the Movement needs
to identify its goals before re-branding itself. That makes a lot of sense since
many see it as only the half-way point between Orthodox and Reform. One thing
is for sure, the leaders of the Conservative Movement do not want anybody to
associate it with conservative political movement. While I’m sure there are
members of the latter in the former, the religious Conservative Movement is
strictly non-partisan. Actually, the discussion of name change is helpful. It gives
its members a chance to think about what they really are, where they want to go
and how they want to be identified.
By the way, for those of you in Berlin, Rabbi Gesa Ederberg heads a Masorti
congregation there which meets on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings at
the Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue. Pay her a visit. Tell her I sent you.
As far as the name change is concerned, I’ll let you know what happens.
THE SWASTIKA – DOWNGRADED OR UPGRADED?
I know well that the displays of the swastika in Germany are considered illegal
and actionable under the criminal law. That is not the case in the U.S. even
though here it is generally considered to be an obscene Nazi symbol. While
painting swastikas on a synagogue is usually considered a “hate crime” flying
one from your window is not.
In general, even though I have not done any scientific research, when one sees a
swastika the association (I believe) is usually Nazi/ anti-Semitic. Perhaps it’s only
Jews who see it that way. Many young people today, I fear, would be hard
pressed to explain to you what a Nazi is or even what anti-Semitism is.
In any case…
The Jewish Week recently reported, “The painting of a swastika — that dark,
ubiquitous signature of hateful vandals everywhere — is no longer automatically
considered an act of anti-Semitism under new guidelines for recording attacks
against Jews announced this week by the Anti-Defamation League.
The most prominent Jewish defense agency in the country, perhaps in the world,
announced on Tuesday that it has revamped its guidelines for recording anti-
Semitic incidents in its annual survey for the first time in 30 years, taking a more
“We know that the swastika has, for some, lost its meaning as the primary
symbol of Nazism and instead become a more generalized symbol of hate,” said
Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, who was a hidden child during the
Holocaust in a statement. “So we are being more careful to include graffiti
incidents that specifically target Jews or Jewish institutions as we continue the
process of re-evaluating and redefining how we measure anti-Jewish incidents.”
For the ADL, therefore, the swastika is no longer just a Nazi symbol to be
understood as something automatically anti-Semitic. Will their re-definition hold
water with the general public? Perhaps!
If you’re interested in how the ADL evaluate the occurrences of anti-Semitism
and how they evaluate the raw data, click here.
Be warned! I’m going to suggest that you read a rather long article.
I have frequently wondered whether an end to the Israel – Palestinian dispute
with some sort of a peace agreement (which I do not see happening any time
soon) would change the chemistry between, for instance, Hamas, Hezbollah,
Iran, the current Turkish government and Israel. Would these Israel antagonists
put Israel on the “good list” and find another victim on which to blame all the
troubles that beset them? How would it affect the U.S.? Would we be able to
establish better relationships with the Muslim world if only the Israelis came to
some sort of an agreement with the Palestinians? Would we and the rest of the
Western World be more secure if this long-standing conflict came to an end? Is
linkage a ”big lie” which places American foreign policy on a fault ridden basis or
is it a legitimate foreign policy goal ?
An interesting and important article appeared in World Affairs by James Kirchick
entitled The Broken Link: What Peace Won’t Fix. It tackles the linkage question
and among many important points Mr. Kirchick makes is, “….the linkage theory,
which has acquired the status of received wisdom, continues to survive reality
checks, today achieving doctrinal status.
The clearest indication of linkage’s dogmatic status arrived in a speech delivered
last year by National Security Adviser Jim Jones. “If there was any one problem
I’d tell [the] president he should solve, this would be it,” Jones told a room full of
supporters of J Street, a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby founded in 2008 to support
greater American pressure on Israel. This must mean that the failure to resolve
the Arab-Israeli conflict presents a greater danger to the United States than a
nuclear Iran, al-Qaeda’s continuing terror campaign, or the resurgence of the
Taliban in Afghanistan, just to name a few of the threats facing the country. And
this is because, according to linkage doctrine, “solving” the Arab-Israeli conflict
would alleviate, if not outright eliminate, all of these other, second-order
The recent obsession with linking the fate of the Israeli-Palestinian question to
broader world peace might give one the impression that the theory is somehow
new. But linkage is a myth that various Arab leaders and intellectuals have been
pushing for sixty years. Today, the argument is merely a moderated form of the
earlier claim (still widely held by Arabs, if not expressed by their leaders) that the
very presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East would be “contrary to the
Arabs’ birthright” and “only lead to trouble and bloodshed and probably to a third
world war,” as a representative of the Arab League to the United Nations said in
1947. Today, with the existence of Israel a reality and successive Arab attempts
to destroy it thwarted, the claim has been modified. Now it is the lack of a
Palestinian state, rather than the existence of Israel itself, that is supposed to
enflame the hearts of Arabs and Muslims from Marrakech to Riyadh to Lahore
and everywhere in between. This much, at least, is clear from the history of
linkage: the Arabs have learned which positions sell and which don’t.
You will do your understanding of majority American Jewish thinking on the
Middle East if you read the Kirchick article. Do so by clicking here.
DEATH OF A JEWISH ORGANIZATION – PART II
In the last issue I wrote about the demise of the American Jewish Congress, one
of America’s outstanding Jewish “defense” agencies. I pointed out that I thought
its failure to pay attention to its fund raising and moving from a liberal to a
conservative (politically) point of view caused it to lose much of its support.
James Besser, the Washington correspondent for The Jewish Week, an
important national weekly, has followed up with a column on the subject (his
second). I am going to quote from it not so much to enlighten you further about
the Congress but because it will give you some genuine insight into the current
major priorities of American Jewry. Read and think about it and you will
understand us a lot better.
”It is a given in the Jewish philanthropic world that two issues trump all others
when it comes to opening Jewish wallets: a threatened Israel and overt anti-
Actually, anti-Semitism isn't a big factor for most American Jews, so if you're a
Jewish fundraiser, it's all Israel, all the time.
Jews whose primary interest is Israel tend to be highly focused and motivated,
with a narrow range of concerns; Jews whose primary focus is domestic tend to
be all over the map, focusing on domestic abuse, church-state separation,
poverty, the environment, women's issues, civil rights....the list is pretty much
AIPAC can raise money like crazy because it focuses on a single issue that has
a strong emotional charge; multi-issue domestic groups have a much harder time
because there are so many issues, and so many other organizations specifically
devoted to those issues.
The community is more divided than it used to be on issues like government
funding for religious institutions. And many believe the biggest church-state
battles have already been won; Jewish public students don't have to recite the
Lord's Prayer in public schools, the way my parents did.
These struck me as valid points, but it doesn't change my bottom line: one
reason the AJ Congress failed is that it became just one more Jewish
organization saying the same things about Israel and its critics and about anti-
Semitism. It no longer could distinguish itself from the alphabet soup of Jewish
agencies putting out almost identical press releases and using identical talking
But his argument does point to a growing communal problem.
Most Jews remain liberal, and most focus more on domestic concerns than on
But multi-issue organizations like the AJ Congress have a harder and harder
time raising money on these issues in today's intensely competitive philanthropic
That's probably why the most successful groups – the American Jewish
Committee and the Anti-Defamation League come to mind – spend more and
more of their time on Israel, the philanthropic mother lode.”
There’s more but those are the main points I want to get across. Jewish
organizations in the U.S. live in a free market system. They are responsive to
their members and donors. Fund raising is the key to survival. The issues that
“sell” are the ones that are the keys. By and large, they do not receive any
government money. In fact those that are issue oriented must be “non-partisan”.
(not connected politically). If they are not, they run the risk of losing their ability to
have the money donated to them considered “tax exempt”. In almost all cases,
without tax exemption, the amount of money raised would be negligible, a
situation most agencies could not survive.
So, now you know a lot more about Jewish organizational life.
By the way, if you want to read the entire Besser article, click here.
I myself have written recently about the awful situation of the Palestinians who
live in squalid camps throughout the Middle East and the treatment they received
from their fellow Arabs. I thought I was alone. Not so! I recently came across an
article by a Canadian journalist, Robert Fulford who is a Toronto author,
broadcaster, and editor as well. He writes a weekly column for The National Post
and is a frequent contributor to Toronto Life, Canadian Art, and CBC radio and
television. He recently wrote a piece Frozen in Time; Addicted to Pity which in
the National Post (Canada).
Mr. Fulford makes the point, “only the Palestinians cling to their "refugee" status
decade after decade. They present themselves as helpless victims of Israeli
aggression. They await rescue-- as they have been awaiting it for three
generations, since Israel was founded in 1948.
Andrew Roberts, a much-admired British historian, raised the issue of
Palestinian refugees in a speech excerpted in the National Post on Tuesday. He
argued, correctly, that Arab governments "are rich enough to have economically
solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago." The 5,000 or so members
of the Saudi royal family could probably handle it by themselves.
Why haven't they done so? They much prefer to let Palestinians remain poor.
Every wretched, ill-fed and ill-housed Palestinian can be used as a living rebuke
The Arab countries love the Palestinians, praise them and pray for them. They
just don't want them moving permanently into their neighbourhoods. The Arab
League advises Arab states to deny citizenship to Palestinians, "to avoid
dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland."
They pretend it's a favour. It also means Arabs can hire Palestinian workers
when they need them and send them home when the economy sags.
The treatment of the Palestinians has become a major crime of omission
committed by the rich Arabs against the poor in collusion with the UN.
And no politician, ever, compares the Palestinians to other refugees. Sol Stern,
trying in a recent City Journal article to bring some perspective to the Palestinian
question, noted that in 1945 about 11 million ethnic German civilians, living in
Central and Eastern Europe, were expelled from their homes "and force-
marched to Germany by the Red Army, with help from the Czech and Polish
governments. Historians estimate that two million died on the way." The
survivors built new lives as best they could. Some still speak of reparations they
deserve. None argue that they should live in squalor until they receive justice.
The enemies of Israel have taught the world to pity the Palestinians and grant
them an almost sacred position among the victims of colonialism. They deserve
pity, of course, but pity for what their fellow Arabs have done to them.
If I had written the Fulford article you might well accuse me of “special pleading”.
However, Fulford is not at all talking about Israel or its treatment of the
Palestinians. He’s talking about Arab-Arab relations – how the Palestinians are
being treated by “their own kind”. I have to say the man has a point. And, the way
he relates the post WW II German refugees to the Palestinians is very
A Palestinian – Israeli peace treaty might help but if you sit and think about the
plight of the refugees which has nothing to do with Israel you will see that a
political settlement for these people will not even come close to solving their
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted
at firstname.lastname@example.org Both the American and Germany editions are
also posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com &