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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘american’

June Bride, 1951

Friday, June 15th, 2012

From “Jews in Minnesota,” by Hyman Berman‏ and Linda Mack Schlof:

“The wedding of Clarice Sherman and Mel Zuckman at Tifereth B’nai Jacob in North Minneapolis, 1951.

“At a Jewish wedding, the bride and groom stand under a chupah or wedding canopy symbolizing their future home.

“As long as Jews remained in the compact geographical areas where they were a dominant majority, they continued to attend Orthodox synagogues while moving away from the strict requirements as individuals. American secular life increasingly challenged the rigid traditionalism of Orthodox Judaism.”

Evangelicals : Righteous Gentiles for Israel

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Jews in democratic countries are disproportionately disposed more than other groups to prefer the left spectrum of political and cultural affairs — a spectrum that is in general unfriendly to the evangelical Christian movement. It is therefore not surprising that only 20% of Jewish Americans hold a favorable opinion of the Christian right, the members of which tend to be favorable to the Republican Party. Yet it is strange when one considers that fact that Evangelical Christians have been strong supporters of Israel. A reasonable conclusion might be that for many American Jews, social and cultural values are more significant than support for Israel. Clearly, differences between many Jews and Christians, especially evangelicals, exist on social questions such as abortion, women’s rights, gay and lesbian rights, and political issues, such as separation of church and state. Such differences, however, do not, and should not, prevent a cordial and supportive relationship between those churches and the state of Israel.

Many Christian Evangelicals have supported Israel politically and financially since its creation. Evangelicals may even be the strongest single group supporting Israel. Theologically, a considerable number of evangelicals believe that Jews must possess their historic right to the land before Jesus can return. With the return of Jew to the Holy Land, evangelicals await the coming of the apocalypse, the return of Christ, and the conversion of Jews. Specifically, Israel is seen as playing a key role in events that will lead to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, the holders of this view support the existence of the state of Israel and believe it will play a role in world affairs. Among the groups holding this position are Eagle Wings, Christian Friends of Israel, Bridges for Peace, and Christians United for Israel, which claims a membership of over one million. They often quote and take literally, Genesis 12, in which the Lord is quoted as saying to Abraham, “And I will bless them that bless thee and curse him that curseth thee.”

Evangelical supporters also sometimes refers to the Biblical passage in Ezekiel (36: 24); writing at the time of the Babylonian captivity, Ezekiel declared that God is speaking to the house of Israel: “I will gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” Christians also seem to appreciate and support contemporary Israel as a democratic nation, exemplifying individual freedom, the rule of law and modernity in a geographical area otherwise devoid of these attributes. Endorsement also results from the realistic understanding that Israel has been subject to constant attack by modern Pharaohs in the Middle East and elsewhere who call, directly and indirectly, not only for boycott and divestment of the state but also repeatedly from Iran, for the genocidal elimination of Israel — “Wiping it off the map” — – in violation of both Iran’s obligation as a signatory to the United Nations Charter, which prohibits any member nation from declaring war on another member nation, and as a signatory to the 1948 Treaty Against Genocide.

For evangelicals, religious and political beliefs merge: God maintains the Biblical covenant with the Jewish people, even though they were and are not perfect; and further, the religious belief in Jewish sovereignty over the Holy Land is deeper than the geopolitical argument. However, some parts of that covenant are more controversial than others in concrete interpretation for evangelicals; in particular Genesis (15:18); “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” Public opinion surveys show that Evangelicals are likely to say that religious belief was the single biggest influence leading them to sympathize with Israel, to believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews, that Israel fulfills the biblical prophecy about the Second Coming of Jesus, and to declare they were more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinians.

Surveys also show that in the first decade of the 21st century the greatest increase in support for Israel of any religious group came from the Evangelicals. Although this support may partly result from the attempt to force the Second Coming, it is more likely to stem from a variety of factors: God’s promise to bless those who bless the Jews; appreciation that Jews provided the basis of Christianity; remorse over the Holocaust and over the past animosity of Christian churches towards Jews; the belief that God will judge people on how they treat Jews; and the appreciation of the democratic and religious free society that exists in Israel.

Say No To UNESCO Waiver

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

We were disappointed by the Obama administration’s announcement that it intended to ask Congress to waive a ban on funding UNESCO because of its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

U.S. funding for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was stopped late last year because of laws banning U.S. funding of any international organization that recognizes Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. American law bars U.S. contributions to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants fall membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes statehood.”

Unfortunately, at the time of the UNESCO controversy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while urging the Palestinians to back off their effort to win UNESCO recognition and warning UNESCO stay out of the political thicket, also told reporters she was “strongly making the case to members of Congress that at some point we need some flexibility because pretty soon, if we don’t pay into these organizations, we lose our right to participate and influence their actions.”

Perhaps. But it would seem a matter of fundamental statecraft that there is no profit in ignoring national law. What is the message when a government seeks an end-run around its own laws in a transparent effort to accommodate an adversary?

As New York Congressman Gary Ackerman put it, while he supports the work of UNESCO, “actions have consequences…. We told the other members of UNESCO that U.S. law would compel us to withhold our funding…. Now both we and they have to live with the consequences…”

American Jewish Leaders Visit Pollard in Prison

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

American Jewish leaders  visited convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in jail, and pledged to redouble their efforts to secure clemency for him.

Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein recently visited convicted spy Jonathan Pollard in the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.

The two American Jewish leaders pledged to redouble their efforts to secure clemency for Pollard. “He has served 27 years, seven of them in solitary confinement,” they said in a statement after the visit. “He suffers from multiple serious medical challenges, which we  believe add urgency to the timeliness of his release.”

“Mr. Pollard made clear that he does not seek a pardon, recognizing that he committed a crime, but seeks a commutation of his sentence,” the statement continues. “Mr. Pollard wants only to be able to build a family and to be a contributing citizen . . . We believe it is overdue that he be allowed to join his wife, who was present at our visit, so that they can live out their lives together.”

Leaving The December Dilemma Behind

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

No matter our stage in life, one is seldom comfortable feeling left out. Unfortunately, many American Jews experience exactly that feeling each year as Christmas approaches. The term “December Dilemma” is used to describe the tension many Jews feel sitting on the sidelines, unable to fully enjoy or participate in the distinctly Christian themes and activities occurring all around.

One contemporary Jewish author, Sara Y. Rigler, writes:

“I grew up as a strongly identified Jew in Christian America. This posed few problems ten and a half months a year. But every November, when the Xmas decorations started to go up, so did my defenses. The annual Xmas concert in my public school was a real identity crisis for me. Should I refuse to participate? Should I go up on the stage with the rest of my class and just mouth the words of the Christmas carols? Should I sing, but go silent every time we came to the ‘J’ word?

“The concerts ended with elementary school, but not my sense of alienation every December. I felt like I was milling around in a party to which I was not invited. Ours was the only house on our street without decorations. Every department store Santa and every brilliantly lit tree, as well as the avalanche of Xmas cards from my Christian (and Jewish!) friends only accentuated my sense of not belonging.”

To some degree, most American Jews can relate to that writer’s experiences. The challenge we face is finding the best way to deal with this reality. First and foremost, we must know why we feel such a sense of discomfort as the Christmas season nears. The answer is clear: as Jews, we simply cannot fully participate in all aspects of a season dominated by Christian religious themes. As such, we must find a way to deal with our inability to fully participate in our surrounding culture for about a month each year.

Four approaches readily come to mind:

* Move to Israel and live in a thoroughly Jewish environment, where no Jew will ever feel left out. While this may be an immediate option for some, it is not one the majority of American Jews are yet willing to entertain.

* Seek to eliminate all overtly Christian aspects of the holiday season. Although there are several groups trying to do this, to me, forcing Christianity out of the Christmas season seems both quite odd and unfair to our fellow citizens (the majority) who thoroughly enjoy this time of the year. Also, the hostility arising from such a move would be far more problematic to the American Jewish community than any lonely feelings brought on by the December Dilemma.

* Try to level the playing field by demanding absolutely equal “air time” to all things Jewish during the Christmas season. This would be done by forcing Jewish symbols, holiday trappings, and music to appear and be heard wherever and whenever Christmas ones are displayed and heard. When one considers this approach, it does not take long to realize how unrealistic it is. It is rather far-fetched to have a Charlie Brown Chanukah special on TV right after the Christmas one, or hearing a Chanukah-themed song right after “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” while shopping, and I seriously doubt we can expect to see Chanukah-themed Coca Cola bottles displayed right next to the ones with Santa on them any time soon. (Even if such a plan were realistic, I think it is pretty clear it would be unfair imposing Jewish holiday themes on the majority of our fellow citizens, and extremely unwise for American Jewry to push for such an idea.)

*Live authentic, active, and fulfilling Jewish lives. If our days, homes, and routines are full of Judaism, we will not feel much in the way of a vacuum each year when December rolls around. This approach will more than compensate for those brief seasonal experiences we as Jews cannot participate in.

Regarding this last approach, one non-Jewish writer, Terry Mattingly, has this to say: “A child in a family that enjoys Jewish life and faith is less likely to crave a Christmas tree…. But if a family’s life is dominated by television, pop music, movies, shopping and other activities that have little or nothing to do with their faith, then it will probably feel tension during these media-mad and highly secularized holidays.”

If we opt for the fourth approach in dealing with the December Dilemma, I am sure all Jews will feel far less seasonal angst each year. Living actively Jewish lives will not only enrich our beings, it will also enable us to view Judaism as a vibrant life-enhancing force instead of an aspect of our heritage that just causes us to feel like outsiders.

Rabbi Akiva and Layala Males are enjoying Chanukah in Harrisburg, PA.

Reaction To Ads Expose Troubled U.S. Jewish Psyche

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The recent kerfluffle over Israeli government video ads and billboard posters, designed to entice wayward yordim to return home, instead exposed the troubled psyche of American Jews.

 

One might say – if verbal treif is permitted – that a ham-handed attempt by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to guilt-trip wandering Israelis into leaving their American promised land backfired. The ministry had good reason for concern lest American society continue to corrode the loyalty of Israelis to their homeland and culture. The benefits of assimilation, as American Jewish history (and the current intermarriage rate) reveals, exact high costs.

 

In the ministry videos a young Israeli woman solemnly contemplates Yom HaZikaron, the day of remembrance for fallen Israeli soldiers, while her American boyfriend is clueless. A sleeping Israeli father does not awaken while his youngster calls “daddy,” but not “abba.” The child of Israelis, Skyping with grandparents back home, is oblivious to the meaning of their Chanukah candles and imagines that it is Christmas.

 

For months these ads elicited no discernible response, either from wayward Israelis or American Jews. But once the video clips appeared on the Jewish Channel, prompting a tirade from Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, gevalts resounded throughout the land.

 

Goldberg was appalled: “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads.” Their message was clear: “it is impossible for Jews to remain Jewish in America.” He added, gratuitously, that Israel has its own problems: many rabbis “act like Iranian mullahs.” And intermarriage can be “understood as an opportunity” – although for what he did not specify.

 

The Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America was furious. Rejecting any notion that “American Jews do not understand Israel” (which hardly was the primary thrust of the ads), they warned that “this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abe Foxman found the videos “demeaning.”

 

There may also have been a political subtext to the belated outrage. The New York Times noted gratuitously that the Israeli ministry responsible for the ad campaign is headed by a Russian immigrant named Sofa Landver. She belongs to “the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party [that]…takes a hard line on the peace process with the Palestinians and advocates exchanging parts of Israel heavily populated by Arab citizens for Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank.” Therefore, presumably, the ad campaign must be a bad idea.

 

With some 500,000 Israelis estimated to be living in the United States, it is no small problem that the Immigrant Absorption Ministry tried to address – if too bluntly for American Jewish insecurities. The Ministry, expressing its respect and appreciation to the American Jewish community, reiterated the obvious: the ad campaign targeted Israelis who had succumbed to the allure of American enticements, not American Jews.

 

But Prime Minister Netanyahu, responding to the squall of outrage from American Jewish precincts, quickly aborted the ad campaign. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, engaging in damage control, appeared on CNN for an interview with John King – on Shabbat, no less – to apologize for the failure of the Immigration Ministry to “take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”

 

As Jerusalem-based journalist David Hazony perceptively observed about the video ad fracas, “in the hysteria of the response, the insecurity of American Jewish life is laid bare.” That is the real story of the video ad contretemps, which the fury of American Jews inadvertently confirmed.

 

Israel has long been an integral part of that story. Two years after Israel’s founding, American Jewish Committee President Jacob Blaustein wrested his famous agreement from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that Israel would neither presume to speak for American Jews nor attempt to entice them to make aliyah.

 

More recently, whenever Israel has incurred the wrath of an American president for permitting another settlement in its biblical homeland American Jews have writhed with embarrassment and hastened to distance themselves from Israeli “zealots.”

 

Assimilated American Jews remain ever anxious lest they be held guilty by association with Israel’s perceived misdeeds. Their loyalty to the United States must never be impugned. Any implication that American Jews are without a sustainable Jewish identity is infuriating. They seemed shocked that exposure to Jewish life in their promised American homeland can corrode the Jewish identity of Israelis.

 

Israeli yordim are the proverbial canary in the mineshaft, warning of imminent danger ahead. Yet the ads were intended as a warning to Israelis, not to the American Jews who quickly jumped to the conclusion that it is “about us” – a clear indication, as Hazony wrote, that Israelis “stepped on a live wire in the American Jewish psyche.”

 

For American Jews of a certain persuasion, Israel once again was the big bad Jewish bully whose reckless actions jeopardized their deep yearning for recognition as good Jews and acceptance as loyal Americans. But when an Israeli and an American Jew are paired, the ads suggested, the Jewish deficiencies of American Jewish life become glaringly apparent. That stung – precisely because there is truth to it.

About Those Supposedly Offensive Israeli Ads…

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Dear American Jews,

 

I wish to apologize in the name of the State of Israel. We have heard our ad campaign encouraging ex-pat Israelis to come home has offended many of you. That was certainly not the intent, and if it did offend, we are sorry.

 

Israel created this ad campaign in order to address a major issue. We have almost a million Israelis living abroad, mostly in North America, and our tiny country, the one both you and we love so much, is in desperate need of manpower to feed the economy, serve in the army, and buttress our demographic advantage, not to mention that the ingathering of the Jewish people from the four corners of the world is a central tenet of Zionism.

 

Alas, America’s magnetic pull has attracted many to leave the shores of the Holy Land in search of success and fortune and they have settled there. Yet we want to call many of these Israelis back to Israel.

 

So how do we reach out to our fellow Israelis living in the U.S.? What messaging resonates with this target demographic? Well, we can take the economic tack. Israel’s economy is booming, but the perception persists that it’s hard to make money here. Maybe we should pursue the safe haven tack? That holds water for those few Israelis living in openly dangerous places, but it is hard to convince an Israeli living in Los Angeles or Boston that it is safer in Israel.

 

Then there is the family and culture tack. Israeli ex-pats may have left the homeland, but they remain deeply Israeli. They love and miss Ima‘s Moroccan cooking, going on Miluim (IDF reserves) and, most of all, they miss the holidays, which include national holidays like Yom Ha’Atzmaut and Yom HaZikaron. They care about their culture and they fear losing their connection to it.

 

And so the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption conceived of and executed a series of ads targeting the sensibilities of Israelis – to touch their hearts, make them miss home, remind them of the risk of cultural assimilation and, maybe, help convince them to come back.

 

Let us examine the three videos that were produced.

 

The first features a boy trying to get his napping father’s attention. The child says aloud “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” But the father continues sleeping. Finally the boy whispers “Abba” and the father awakens and smiles.

 

The message is that the father responds to “Abba” because he is culturally Israeli, that is, in this case, someone who identifies more with Hebrew than English. The ad ends by saying that ex-pats will always remain culturally Israeli; however, their Diaspora born-children will not be. The presumption is that this will cause pain because of the cultural rift, so instead, Israelis should come home.

 

While this ad is provocative, it certainly cannot be seen as offensive to American Jewry. It directly targets Israelis and asks them a tough question: Do you want your child to say Daddy or Abba? Fair enough.

 

If, however, American Jewry was offended at the idea that Hebrew may be more culturally Jewish than English, that is something certainly worth debating. Clearly, Israelis living in Israel and abroad feel more comfortable with Hebrew and therefore the video is spot on.

 

The second video features a Skype conversation between two Israeli grandparents living in Israel and their older children who live in the U.S., now parents themselves. In between the young U.S. couple sits the beloved granddaughter. The grandparents have Chanukah paraphernalia in the background and ask their granddaughter, “Nu, so do you know what holiday it is?” to which the little girl proudly responds “Christmas!” The couples exchange uncomfortable glances.

 

Here, the Christmas/Chanukah conflict is more sensitive than the Abba/Daddy dichotomy. This video touches on the problems of the decaying Jewish identity and the forces of cultural assimilation affecting American Jews and Israelis in America. Can there be any doubt that the powerful pop culture of America wreaks havoc on authentic Jewish or Israeli culture? Can anyone seriously claim that this video created boogie men where none existed? Why else would there be constant talk of funding Jewish education, Hillel houses, Birthright trips etc.? There is a real challenge to keep Jews Jewish today  – and who understands that better than American Jews?  This video unflinchingly addresses a phenomenon that afflicts all Jews living in America.

 

The video that has the most potential to offend is the one that led Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic to post the loud headline: “Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews.”

 

Let’s go to the videotape: in the ad, a couple is seen entering a big city apartment. The room is dark, except for a single lit candle. The man tells the woman, “Now I understand why you didn’t want to go to the party” intimating that a romantic evening was planned by her. She, on the other hand, looks sad as she silently goes to her computer, where we see she is viewing a Yom HaZikaron (Israeli memorial day) website. As she quietly mourns the soldiers who have died to defend Israel, the young man asks “Dafna, what is this?” The narrator says: “They will always stay Israeli, but their partner won’t – help them come home.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/about-those-supposedly-offensive-israeli-ads%e2%80%a6/2011/12/07/

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