Germany edition september 13, 2010


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Germany edition september 13, 2010

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER GERMANY EDITION September 13, 2010 Dear Friends: The Jewish community in the U.S. is in the middle “recess” between the New Year, Rosh Hashanah and The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). If you saw crowds at the local synagogue recently or see them again next week you’ll know why they’re there. If you want to know more about the latter holy day, click here. You don’t have to be Jewish to be wished a Happy New Year. So, I hope year number 5771 in the Jewish calendar will be a good one for you. As far as atoning for your sins is concerned, you can do that on your own. It will make you feel better especially if there were a few that took place in 5770 that you want to unload from your conscience. Hopefully, there will be no repeats during 5771. Holiday or not, things keep happening, so let’s get on with it… IN THIS EDITION A RARE CROSS-CULTURAL HYBRID – Black and Orthodox. How do they fit in? THE THILO RESPONSE – The Sarrazin book, Islam and the Jewish gene. YOUNG AMERICAN JEWS & ISRAEL – Perhaps not so far apart. THE PEACE PROCESS–INTERESTING BY-PRODUCTS – Who is on who’s side? The enemy of my enemy is my friend? Maybe! CONSIDERING CASTRO – All of a sudden we’ve got a friend. THE COST OF BELONGING – Joining a synagogue. What does it cost? 1
  2. 2. A RARE CROSS-CULTURAL HYBRID Yes, black Jews are a rarity in the U.S. Black Orthodox Jews are even rarer. In Israel there is a larger group – mostly from Ethiopia but in New York they are uncommon – a novelty. They have largely flown “under the radar” until recently when one was murdered in a Brooklyn holdup. As Trymaine Lee points out in The New York Times, “In yeshivas, they are sometimes taunted as “monkeys” or with the Yiddish epithet for blacks. At synagogues and kosher restaurants, they engender blank stares. And dating can be awkward: their numbers are so small, friends will often share at least some romantic history with the same man or woman, and matchmakers always pair them with people with whom they have little in common beyond skin color. They are African-Americans and Orthodox Jews, a rare cross-cultural hybrid that seems quintessentially Brooklyn, but received little notice until last week, after Yoseph Robinson, a Jamaican-born convert, was killed during a robbery attempt at the kosher liquor store where he worked. I guess the theories of Thilo Sarrazin about all Jews having the same gene just don’t hold water in Brooklyn. Read the entire Lee piece by clicking here. THE THILO RESPONSE Since I’m on the subject of Thilo Sarrazin, the reaction in the American Jewish community was pretty much what it was among thoughtful Germans. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) noted in its press release, “AJC praised Chancellor Angela Merkel and top German opinion leaders for sharply distancing themselves from the demonic genetic theories promoted by Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the German Federal Bank board. “Warming up outdated and bizarre theories on genes and race is a highly combustible political brew,” said Deidre Berger, Director of AJC’s Berlin Office. “It is appalling that Thilo Sarrazin, a well-known public figure in Germany, could seriously promote ideas of genetic selection.” In his newly published book, “Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany does away with itself), Sarrazin suggests that educated women be paid large sums of money for child-bearing to improve the gene pool in Germany. In recent press interviews, Sarrazin has stated that Jews, Vietnamese and other minorities are genetically superior to Muslims. 2
  3. 3. AJC Berlin called for an end to linking immigration, demography and genetics. “It is important that red lines be respected on discussion of important public issues, such as immigration, to prevent slanderous and hateful depictions of minorities,” said Berger. “The best way to promote upward mobility is through access to education and the labor market.” Other than a few stories in the national media and a few more in the Jewish press there wasn’t much coverage of the story at all. I think most of the people who decide what should be published and what should not, decided, as most of the American public did, that Sarrazin was just another crackpot spewing long discounted racial theories and was not worth wasting precious print space on the story. As it is in Germany, we here in the U.S. are ourselves going through a significant wave of anti-Islam feeling. In the U.S. it revolves around plans to build an Islamic Community Center and mosque a few blocks away from “Ground Zero” where the World Trade Center buildings stood before they were destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attack. In no way is this a “Jewish” issue. In fact, Jews are on both sides of it - actually on three sides. Some feel that no religious group should be precluded from building a house of prayer anywhere as long as local zoning laws are adhered to. A second group feels that having a mosque so close to “hallowed ground” is a direct insult to the memory of those that perished on 9/11. The third group feels that, as does the first, that the law is the law and that the building should be allowed – however, it would be “wise” for the people who want to build it to move it to another site. There’s always a middle position. While the thought that all Jews carry some sort of “Jewish gene” is stupid and outrageous, that is not to say that some Jews carry some similar genes. Unhappily, they mostly have to do with certain diseases that a great many Ashkenazi Jews carry. Just a few weeks ago The Forward, probably the most important national Jewish newspaper carried a special section devoted to Jewish genetic disease and its treatment. Since my parents named me Eugene and many friends call me “Gene”, if you run into Mr. Sarrazin tell him you know at least one outstanding Jewish Gene. Tell him I thank him for mentioning my name. I’ll accept partial royalties on his book. YOUNG AMERICAN JEWS & ISRAEL You may remember that a couple of months ago I featured an article by Peter Beinart indicating the growing distance between young American Jews and Israel as well as their increasing dissociation from American Jewish organizations and their leadership. A recent article in The Forward indicates much less of a separation. It notes, “(the)Peter Beinart’s essay in The New York Review of Books last spring painted a picture of young American Jews as alienated, 3
  4. 4. increasingly disengaged from the Jewish state and what he called the “illiberal” policies of its current government, and “less willing to grant Israel an exemption because its survival seems in peril.” Beinart briefly backed up his claim of generational disenchantment by citing focus groups conducted by pollster Frank Luntz and research by Steven M. Cohen and Ari Kelman, of Hebrew Union College and the University of California, Davis, respectively, finding that “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,” with many professing “a near-total absence of positive feelings.” But in his essay, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” Beinart was inadvertently taking sides in a larger debate that has been raging for some time among sociologists of the Jewish world. And the other side has just issued its response. Researchers at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies released a study in late August that claims to find nothing unusually depressing or alarming about the current younger generation’s level of attachment to Israel. “The findings of the present study challenge the view of a widening schism between American Jews and Israel,” it concludes. “A majority of American Jews feel attached to Israel and the overall level of attachment has remained stable for nearly a quarter of a century.” The study, in which about 1,200 people were interviewed in June, did show generally lower levels of “connection to Israel” among those younger than 30. But for the Brandeis researchers, these numbers are not surprising. Every generation goes through a normal “lifecycle,” the study reports, in which attachment to Israel grows as people get older; in similar studies over the past 20 years, these researchers say, the ratio of younger people who don’t feel an attachment to Israel has remained constant. Instead, the researchers point to a steady number: the 63% of all respondents who say they feel “very much” or “somewhat” connected to Israel, and the 75% who say that Israel is an important part of their identity. And, even more significantly for the currently polarized climate, this study sees no correlation between political ideology and attachment to Israel. “We found that conservatives were no more likely than liberals to feel connected to Israel or regard Israel as central to their Jewish identities,” the study reports. “These findings are remarkable given that liberalism is associated with reduced support for Israel in the broader American population.” Not everyone agrees that the picture is so rosy. 4
  5. 5. The article goes into greater detail on this truly important (to the Jewish community) issue. The connection between American Jews and Israeli Jews is a critical one. As I’ve pointed out before, we’re a small people with only a little over 13 million souls worldwide. About 40% live in the U.S. and slightly more live in Israel (Germany has a little less than 1%). I don’t think I have to expand on the thought that we can’t afford any schisms. In order to read the entire article (It’s not very long) click here. utm_medium=email&utm_source=Emailmarketingsoftware&utm_content=709384 75&utm_campaign=September102010&utm_term=RefutingBeinartsThesis THE PEACE PROCESS – INTERESTING BY-PRODUCTS The American initiated Middle East peace process got underway with positive statements coming from all sides and what looks like a serious attempt to get something done. Even the most positive and Pollyanna group of critics who hope for big results realize that the process has a long way to go and that the participants have not yet begun to wrestle with the tough issues. After the first salutatory meetings the first of the many problems arose. Would Israel resume its building in the Settlements and, if so, would Pres. Abbas, as threatened, walk out of the talks? If the two sides can get past that knotty problem, that would be a good sign. Interesting by-products of the talks have emerged thus far having to do with Iran. First, Iranian Pres. Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced Pres. Abbas and dismissed the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, saying the fate of Palestine would be decided in Palestine and through resistance and not in Washington. The Ma'an News Agency reported that he also said Mahmoud Abbas was a hostage of Israel who lacked the legitimacy to negotiate on the Palestinian's behalf. Then, according to Haaretz, “A Palestinian Authority spokesman lashed out at the president of Iran for criticizing Palestinian negotiations with Israel and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in particular, Ma'an News Agency reported on Sunday. "The one who does not represent the Iranian people, who falsified election results, who oppressed the Iranian people and stole authority has no right to speak about Palestine, its president or its representatives," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” With Pres. Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan clearly on Abbas’ side, the division between the moderates in the Arab world and non-Arab Iran are becoming clearer. Even to the casual observer the “alliance” between the Arab 5
  6. 6. moderates and Israel is also coming into sharper focus. Israel and the U.S. are now more clearly seen as the bulwarks against Iranian hegemony in the Middle East. Going a bit further, according to noted “Minister of Minority Affairs Professor Avishay Braverman said Saturday that the recently relaunched peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians posed "a strategic threat to Iran." Speaking at the Shabbat Tarbut event in Haifa, the minister said that "the cancellation of a visit by the Iranian foreign minister to Egypt and the historical events that have occurred in Tehran since the start of peace talks are proof that progress in the talks will lead to an alliance between Israel and the moderate Arab states versus the axis of evil of Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah.”Braverman was referring to Egypt's cancellation Friday of a meeting that was to include Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki over remarks he had made earlier, accusing of Arab leaders of betrayal for cooperating with the U.S.-sponsored peace talks. Mottaki was quoted in the Iranian media on Tuesday as saying that the Arab leaders meeting in Washington in order to launch the renewal of peace talks with Israel are traitors to their respective peoples. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II both attended the official launch of the direct talks in Washington. Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, also criticized the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In a speech he gave on Friday in honor of pro-Palestinian "Jerusalem Day," Nasrallah said that "these negotiations were born and have died." Nasrallah added, "Palestine from the river to the sea is the property of the Palestinian people, the Arabs and the Muslims, and no person has the right to give any of it away, not a grain of sand or a drop of water." Nasrallah blessed the Hamas for the attacks it carried out this past week and said, "This is the message, and this is the way to liberate Jerusalem and Palestine. Hamas and other resistance fighters of their kind should hear voices of support from the entire Arab and Muslim world." So there you have it – the first outward signs of a new coalition of need with former enemies beginning to understand that they need each other and, perhaps (only perhaps), movement toward some sort of cooperation. Now, if the extremists on all sides can be kept in check and a little common sense can prevail, the negotiations might actually get somewhere and have produce some benefits in dealing with the Iranian problem. 6
  7. 7. CONSIDERING CASTRO Fidel Castro, a lifelong revolutionary, over the many years has been very critical of Israel almost to the point of sounding like a run of the mill anti-Semite. Even as late as June of this year in commenting on the Gaza incursion said, “The State of Israel's hatred towards the Palestinians is such that it would not hesitate to send 1.5 million men, women and children to the crematoriums in which millions of Jews of all ages were killed…."The swastika would seem to be the flag of Israel today." As far as Iran was concerned, “He claimed that Iran is subject to Israeli threats, and will not give in to the "inequality" it has been dealt amid the decision to impose further sanctions on Tehran. More recently, in what I would consider a 180 degree turn about in his thinking, according to an article in Haaretz, “Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro has urged Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to stop slandering the Jews, according to an article published on the U.S. website The Atlantic on Tuesday. The ageing revolutionary devoted much of a five-hour conversation to the issue of anti-Semitism, wrote Jeffrey Goldberg, who interviewed Castro in the Cuban capital Havana. Castro told The Atlantic that the Iranian government should understand the consequences anti-Semitism. "This went on for maybe two thousand years," he said. "I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything." He added: "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust." Asked by Goldberg if he would repeat his comments to Ahmadinejad, Castro said. "I am saying this so you can communicate it." Following the interview, Goldberg spoke with Haaretz about his impression of the thinking behind Castro's comments. "I think he [Castro] realizes he's gone too far in certain criticisms of Israel," Goldberg said. "I think he wants to be a player in this issue; and I think he's genuinely offended by Holocaust denial." 7
  8. 8. Ahmadinejad has publicly called the Holocaust "a myth", claiming Jews exaggerated the Nazi genocide to win sympathy from European governments. I’m not sure what impact Castro has these days. He’s kind of “yesterday’s news”. However, in the UN and among revolutionaries he does have considerable credibility. Maybe his voice will add a little bit of leavening to usual left wing extremist badgering of Israel. More important, perhaps those same people will take a closer look at Ahmadinejad. That would be the most important result of Castro’s about face. You can read the entire Atlantic article by clicking here. stop-slandering-the-jews/62566/ THE COST OF BELONGING The Jewish community in the U.S. is organized along very different lines than the one in Germany. In the U.S. because our Constitution separates “church & state” religious institutions are precluded from receiving tax money and, therefore, have to be self-supporting. In Jewish America there is no “Zentralrat” (even though there are national coordinating bodies). Therefore, each and every synagogue and Jewish organization is on its own in raising sufficient funds to support itself, its rabbinical staff, educators, physical plant, etc. Of course, all churches and mosques, etc. are in the same situation. In this free market economy each and every religious institution must make it own way. How they go about it is the subject of an interesting article in the national Jewish newspaper, The Forward. By and large In the Jewish community when wishes to affiliate with a particular synagogue, one becomes a “member” and pays an annual “dues”. In the Christian communities the amount of money given to a church is usually left to the individual’s conscience. As it turns out, the differences between the two systems produces very similar results. ”The Forward also found great disparity in the way that churches and synagogues spend the money they raise. Those patterns — indicating, for instance, that rabbis are often paid far more than Christian spiritual leaders, and that churches send much larger portions of their budgets upstream to denominational organizations” The article is fascinating and is the first of two. I will provide a link to the next article when it appears. In the meantime, you will get a genuine insight into American religious life by reading the first. To do so click here. utm_medium=email&utm_source=Emailmarketingsoftware&utm_content=70938475&ut m_campaign=September172010&utm_term=WhichCostsMoreSynagogueorChurch#ixzz 8
  9. 9. 0z9WYBh6g *********************************************************************** * DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at 9
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