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June 27, 2016 / 21 Sivan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘american’

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.

Rabbi Akiva Males

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.

Jerold S. Auerbach

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.”

Yishai Fleisher

Why Glenn Beck Scares Israeli Leftists

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Israeli radical leftists have long had an intense hatred for American conservatives, who are almost all pro-Israel. Actually, Israeli leftists hate American conservatives precisely because conservatives are pro-Israel.
 
As is the case in most other countries, radical leftists in the Jewish state are anti-Israel in addition to being anti-American.
 
Israeli leftists insist that overseas supporters of Israel who are conservative should be shunned. Israeli leftists insist that Israel should only allow itself to be befriended by foreign leftists. Never mind that the search for pro-Israel foreign leftists is about as productive as the search for human life on other planets. The left outside of Israel is almost entirely anti-Israel, and foreign liberals are by and large (though not entirely) anti-Israel as well.
 
Israeli leftists want foreign pro-Israel conservatives to be regarded as personae non gratae by Israel. A few years back, Amiram Goldblum, a professor at Hebrew University and a founder of Peace Now, called upon Israeli officials to prevent American evangelical Christians from entering Israel. He objected to them because they are too pro-Israel. The Israeli left is outraged that Israeli cable TV carries Fox News, because it is pro-Israel. The anti-Israel BBC and CNN, however, are fine.
 
            The most dramatic manifestation of the Israeli left’s hatred of pro-Israel foreign conservatives was evident in the severity of the Beckaphobia we’ve seen in recent days.
 
Glenn Beck was in Israel last week (he has been here a lot in recent months) for one purpose only – to support Israel. He is an outspoken and well-spoken American conservative. His political opinions are solidly conservative and you cannot listen to his recent speech in Jerusalemwithout being convinced of the sincerity of his love for Israel and solidarity with Jews. You might even be moved to tears (from his citing the Book of Ruth, for instance).
 
The Israeli left has been jihading like crazy against Beck. Yossi Sarid, the ex-head of the semi-Marxist Meretz party, crayoned an op-ed demonizing Beck (just recently Sarid published an op-ed in Haaretz claiming Israel fought the Six-Day War out of a Nazi-like quest for Lebensraum – his word). Sarid was joined by lots of left-wing Haaretz writers in Beck-bashing. And even the normally sensible Maariv editor Ben-Dror Yemini decided to gripe about Beck. Naturally, Peace Now denounced the decision to allow Beck into the country.
 
The leftists demanding that Beck be regarded as persona non grata are almost without exception the same people who protested when Israel denied inveterate Israel bashers Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomskyand Richard Falkentry into the country. The lesson is clear – the left’s mantra is really this: Israel, hate it or leave it.
 

Meanwhile, Israeli patriots loved Beck and many attended his rallies. Caroline Glick wrote in The Jerusalem Post:

 

Beck is rare, because he refuses to bow to the intellectual intimidation and groupthink that plagues the discourse on Israel in Israel itself and throughout the world . Unlike the leftist public intellectuals such as New York Timescolumnist Tom Friedman who are celebrated and obsessively covered by the Israeli media, Beck exerts real influence on public opinion in the U.S. His calls for action are answered by hundreds of thousands of people. His statements are a guidepost for millions of Americans. Aside from radio host Rush Limbaugh, no media personality in the U.S. has such influence. It is highly significant that thousands of Beck’s supporters followed his call and came with him to Israel for a week to express their support for Israel and the Jewish people. It is similarly significant that millions more of his supporters followed his actions on Internet.

 

Beck, of course, is also the right-winger American left-wingers most love to hate. He is perhaps the only TV and radio personality who can upset the left even more than Rush Limbaugh does. But those who hate Beck, in almost all cases, also hate Israel. True,  some liberal American Reform rabbis denounced Beck for criticizing George Soros, but if anything, Beck should carry their condemnation as a badge of valor.
 
Some American Jewish liberals squirm when Beck’s name is mentioned because they have a problem with Mormons. Give me a nice team of Mormons any day over liberal Jewish pseudo-clergypersons preaching that Judaism is really “social justice” and pursuing a liberal political agenda.
 

Mormons may invite you to join their faith and pray for you to do so. Liberal Reform rabbis often misrepresent Judaism and are guilty of chillul Hashem (sacrilege). I feel fine with the former. And I salute Glenn Beck.

 

 

 

Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at the University of Haifa. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Steven Plaut

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-glenn-beck-scares-israeli-leftists/2011/08/31/

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