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.
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
email@example.com I’ll print them if it’s O.K. with you.
Let’s get on with the news…
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-
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
…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
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
And yet, despite all their success and achievement, the majority of European Jews,
seconded by many Jewish and non-Jewish experts, insist that catastrophe may lie
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
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
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.
Please let me know what you think. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . 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
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-
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
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
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-
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. 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. The Jewish Virtual Library puts
their numbers at 5,000 in Jerusalem 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.
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
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)
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.”
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
“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.
“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
“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
“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
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
Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com