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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mainstream’

How Peter Bergson Brought Activism Into The Mainstream

Friday, July 1st, 2016

A major new novel features a Jewish activist organizing protests against the Roosevelt administration’s abandonment of European Jewry. A recent off-Broadway play (being made into a movie by an Academy Award-winning actor and director) depicted Jewish activists and leaders clashing over Holocaust rescue.

With his appearance in literature, theater, and film, the once-controversial Peter Bergson is finally entering the popular culture. And the U.S. Jewish community at long last seems to be coming to grips with one of the most painful chapters in its history.

Seventy-five years ago this summer, Bergson (real name: Hillel Kook) and a handful of colleagues launched what would become perhaps the most dramatic political action campaign in American Jewish history.

To advance their demands to rescue Europe’s Jews and create a Jewish state in Palestine, these activists placed hundreds of full-page ads in newspapers, lobbied in Congress, and organized a march by 400 rabbis to the White House. Such tactics were radical steps for Jews in the 1940s. Many immigrants and children of immigrants, still nervous about their place in American society, were uneasy about broadcasting Jewish concerns in the pages of the major newspapers.

Bergson liked to call himself a “nuisance diplomat,” and his group’s activities did prove to be quite a nuisance to the Roosevelt administration, which insisted the rescue of European Jews was impossible. The Bergsonites mobilized enough congressional and public pressure on President Roosevelt to help force him to create a U.S. government agency, the War Refugee Board, in early 1944. During the final fifteen months of World War II, the board played a central role in rescuing some 200,000 Jews from the Nazis.

Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Stephen S. Wise despised the Bergson Group. Wise at one point declared Bergson was “worse than Hitler” because protests such as marching through the streets of Washington might lead to increased anti-Semitism. A reasonable person could have made that argument only prior the rabbis’ march. After the march took place and no pogroms ensued, it was absurd for anyone to still make such claims. Yet well into 1944, Wise and other Jewish leaders were so resentful of Bergson that they sought to convince the administration to “draft or deport” him.

Some of the Jewish leaders’ opposition to Bergson was motivated by sheer pettiness. They worried that Bergson’s headline-grabbing tactics were, as one Jewish official complained, “stealing our thunder.” Some Jewish groups took a lot of time away from genuine causes (such as the rescue issue) in order to fight Bergson.

Some of the Holocaust-era bitterness between the Jewish establishment and the Bergson dissidents spilled over into the postwar era. Mainstream Jewish leaders wrote or sponsored accounts of the period that left out the Bergson Group. Holocaust museums ignored Bergson, too.

How, then, did we manage to get from the mud of that partisan swamp to a point today when the Bergson Group’s achievements are widely acknowledged by the powers that be in the Jewish world?

Bringing the Bergsonites back into history required a gradual process that stretched over several decades. It began in the late 1970s, when a new generation of scholars, led by professors David S. Wyman and Monty Penkower, began writing about the Bergson Group. Demographics were also a factor: American Jews who came of age in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s had no memory of the intra-Jewish feuds of the 1940s. They were not interested in re-fighting their parents’ battles.

The Soviet Jewry protest movement, and the rise of pro-Israel activism, also contributed significantly to this process. As activism gained widespread acceptance in the Jewish community in the 1970s and beyond, the activism of the 1940s in effect gained validation.

The combination of these factors has put the Bergson group on the map. It took a series of protests and petitions, but the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum finally added Bergson materials to its permanent exhibit, and other Holocaust museums have followed suit. Yad Vashem joined the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in co-hosting a public conference on the Bergson Group. The aforementioned off-Broadway play, Bernard Weintraub’s “The Accomplices,” brought the Bergson story to new audiences, and now it is being made into a full-length film co-starring and directed by the Oscar winner Edward James Olmos.

And with the publication of the critically acclaimed novel “The Houseguest,” featuring a character whom the author said is modeled on Bergson, the activists have truly entered mainstream culture.

“The irony is that my father wasn’t interested in gaining recognition – he didn’t even use his real name,” Dr. Rebecca Kook of Ben-Gurion University, Bergson’s daughter, told me in a recent interview. “But he would have been glad to know that he played some role in helping American Jews realize they should not be afraid to lobby and demonstrate and speak out loudly against injustice.”

Dr. Rafael Medoff

What Seven Years Have Wrought

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Seven years ago, on September 12, 2005, the government of Israel withdrew its defense forces from each of the 23 hitherto-vibrant Israeli communities in the cluster known as Gush Katif. All public buildings including schools, libraries, community centres, office buildings, industrial buildings, factories and greenhouses which could not be taken apart were left intact [source].

The hyper-productive Israeli agricultural and horticultural greenhouses that had generated sales, profits and jobs are gone – promptly destroyed by the new masters of Gush Katif and of Gaza. Terrorist training facilities have sprouted on the ruins of the abandoned Israeli towns. The vision of a self-sustaining, forward-looking, peace-seeking Gaza has vanished. Some ten thousand Israelis left Gush Katif to make their homes elsewhere.

During these past seven years, we have been witness to the conversion of Gush Katif into an armed camp, an arsenal from which some 9,400 rockets and missiles [source] have been fired at the Israeli civilians and communities on the other side of the fence.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Facebook page today says: “Seven years ago today we disengaged from the Gaza Strip”. A photo of two Gaza terrorists preparing a missile to fire at Israel’s appears below it [see at right], along with a message suggesting the photo be shared in order to “show the world Israel’s true neighbors. Share this, because mainstream media won’t.”

The mainstream media generally avoid showing scenes like those below, as well. They are September 2012 images from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas overlords use Soviet-style wall posters to hammer home the message that the men firing the rockets and carrying the sub-machine guns are the people’s heroes.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Frimet and Arnold Roth

The Winds of Mysticism

Friday, August 31st, 2012

As I was browsing through some of the news media, blogs, and other social network media that I frequent (as source material from my blog), I came across a number of articles that seemed to have a common theme. There seems to be an increase in the number of ads for mysterious Segulos as well as announcements about getting Brachos from rabbis. So too are there all kinds of spiritual messages being ‘seen’ in various events of the day – like blaming a tragedy on a defect in Klal Yisroel that needs to be ‘repaired.’

While there may be sources for all of these things, it seems like there is much greater focus on them than ever. The message is that no matter how much we try and fulfill the word of God, it isn’t enough. That we must seek some sort of ‘magic’ bullet to grant our heavenly requests, whether for Parnassa or the health of a loved one who has fallen ill, or praying for fertility… what have you.There is an increasing number of cryptic avenues of this type being touted for successful resolution of one’s needs.

This used to be more the province of Sephardim and Chasidim. But lately it has affected the non Chasidic Ashkenazic Yeshiva world as well.

One e-mail I received contained a picture of a poster hung in a Shul with the announcement that Rav Shach’s grandson, R’ Yissochar Bergman, is collecting “Kvitlech”(written prayer requests – usually accompanied by a donation) for Rav Chaim Kanievsky. This used to be only a Chasidic custom. But now it is ‘catching on’ in the Yeshiva world. You can’t get more Yeshivish than Rav Shach.

There is also the custom of going to Uman on Rosh HaShana. This used to be reserved for Breslover Chasdidm since their Rebbe is buried there. Now there are hundreds of non Chasidim going there too. That has in fact been sharply criticized in the past. It is one thing for a Breslover Chasid to do that – although I question even that. It is another thing for others to do it. The idea of leaving your family behind and going to Uman for Rosh HaShana is perverse to my way of thinking. But now a venerated sage, R’ Aharon Leib Steinman seems to be giving his blessing to it. As pointed out in a post on Rafi’s blog:

This year Rav Shteinman was asked his opinion on the matter. His answer was, reportedly, along with a backhanded compliment, “What’s so bad about them going to Uman? It wont do any harm. Just the opposite – with such a large crowd, there will definitely be a minyan of people davening properly…”

In another post in that same blog is the following:

According to Bechadrei, Rav Birnzweig, a rav in the Mirrer Yeshiva, claimed during his mussar shiur, that Rav Elyashiv was murdered. He said:

Recently we have heard of gedolei yisroel who have passed from this world, everybody must arouse themselves [to teshuva]. Rav Elyashiv and the Admor of Shomrei Emunim were murdered due to the yeshiva bochurim and kollel avreichim who use smartphones.

Right! Rav Eyashiv’s “untimlely” death at age 102 was actually murder due to smartphone use. And who is making this wild speculation? A Rosh Yeshiva in the Mir!

These people are not fringe people. These are respected, serious, mainstream Yeshiva world people. And they are beginning to sound like charlatans and snake oil salesman!

Is this the direction the Charedi world is going in? Is this the unity we should be looking for? A melding of the Chasidic and Yeshiva world that encompasses the entirety of all Asheknaz Charedim? Is the focus becoming mysticsm over rationalism? I know that there is more of a focus on mysticism among Sephardim. But Ashekanzim in the Yeshiva world have never focused on that. Until now.

I realize that not all Charedim buy in to this stuff. Most moderate Charedim do not. But there are so many indicators of this kind of thinking permeating the Charedi world it that I am beginning to wonder if it is the wave of the future? Will it become more mainstream? Is Judaism becoming a religion of mystical Segulos, and Rebbeshe Brachos, blaming every tragedy on the perceived communal ill of the day? Or will we instead be of a religion of merit based on rationality, personal behavior, adherence to Halacha, and direct prayer to God? It would seem that the former is becoming more of a possibility based on these reports.

Harry Maryles

Why the Mass Media’s Best Effort to Understand Obama’s Failure to Make Israel-Palestinian Peace Fails

Monday, July 16th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.co.il/

The Washington Post published a very long and detailed article by Scott Wilson back in May 2011 on why President Barack Obama failed to make progress on Israel-Palestinian peace. It still stands as the best mainstream media effort to explain Obama policy. Wilson did a lot of work, conducted many interviews, and strives to be fair. The article is useful in large part because it shows how much of what we’ve been saying about the Obama Administration was accurate and it also includes a lot of useful quotes.

For example, Wilson’s article shows Obama explicitly saying—we know he did it but not that he said it in so many words—that America must distance itself more from Israel as a way to persuade the Arabs to make peace. Of course, Obama’s action instead persuaded the Arab side to give nothing and demand more, a conclusion not drawn in this article.

What’s most lacking in Wilson’s serious effort to get the story, though, is any conceptual sense of why Obama did fail. And this can be largely explained by a curious but constant missing ingredient in mass media coverage. About 95 percent of the article is concerned with Obama’s relationship with Jews and Israel. The Palestinian side of the factor is hardly mentioned. Yet it was this aspect that caused the failure. What makes this stranger in this case is that Wilson is not trying to excuse the Palestinian side for refusing to want to make peace and even for its reluctance to negotiate.

He doesn’t even mention the refusal of Arab states to help Obama by offering Israel something in 2008; Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ interview with the Post’s own Jackson Diehl, during Abbas’ first visit to Obama-led Washington, making clear his disinterest in diplomatic progress; Abbas’ pie-in-the-face for Obama when the president called for talks in late 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed, and the Palestinians refused; how Abbas sabotaged Obama by making a statehood bid at the UN; and many more such things.

I’m not seeking here to bash Wilson. He has produced the best account we are going to see in the mass media and yet, ironically, he has added very little—except for some juicy Obama quotes from secret meetings—to what we (and by this is meant you and I) already knew and understood.

Why are the Palestinians—their leaders’ intransigence, the radicalism of a public opinion nurtured in this direction for years, the effect of the competition from Hamas, and so on—left out of the equation? We can offer many suggestions but cannot answer this question definitively. That is a task which also requires assigning each of these factors a priority:

–The journalists’ lack of knowledge about Palestinian politics?

–The fear of being considered biased toward Israel, or even “racist?”

–An unconsciously patronizing view in which the Palestinians—and Arabs or Muslims generally—are just “inferior” people who cannot be assigned responsibility for their actions?

–Or the concept that they can only be victims?

–A parallel idea that Israel must always be responsible because it is held to a higher standard?

–Ignorance about Israeli politics and society?

–The seemingly rational view that they must be eager to get a state and end the largely nonexistent these days “occupation” and thus cannot be intransigent?

–The refusal to comprehend that the main theme of Palestinian politics is still wiping Israel off the map and not a two-state solution though this, of course, is not the universal view among them?

–A Washington-centric view which is obsessed with Obama’s domestic political and electoral considerations far more than the actual situation in the Middle East?

–In some cases, though more rarely in America than Europe and certainly not in regard to this article, a deep-seated antagonism toward Jews.

–In some cases, though more rarely in America than Europe and often coming from left-wing Jews in the United States—certainly not the case with this article by Wilson—a deep-seated antagonism toward the existence of a Jewish state.

Wilson here provides us with the case of a reporter who is willing to work hard and genuinely wants to understand what happened. Yet he is only able to offer a series of scenes with no conceptual overview, along with the missing Palestinian factor? Or, to put it bluntly, Obama could stand on his head; Netanyahu could stop all construction on settlement for five years and Palestinian ideology, goals, politics, and internal rivalries would still prevent any breakthrough to a comprehensive peace.

Barry Rubin

Back In The Tank For Obama

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

A good portion of the reliably liberal mainstream media had soured on Barack Obama once his historic 2008 ascension to the presidency gave way to a mostly lackluster performance when he actually moved into the White House.

But with the 2012 presidential election just over five months away, liberal journalists are showing every sign of awakening from their three-year stupor, going all out to discredit Mitt Romney – even to the point of dredging up a nearly 50-year-old high school incident – while loudly decrying a proposed ad campaign by conservative operatives to remind citizens of Obama’s longtime ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

If it seems like you’ve seen this movie before it’s because the media ran similar interference for Obama in 2008 when Wright’s invective-laden anti-U.S. and anti-Israel sermons became public knowledge and candidate Obama cast about for a credible explanation as to why he was Wright’s longtime parishioner and why he apparently held the cleric in such high esteem that the Obamas had him preside at their wedding and baptize their children.

Once the mainstream media – finally, belatedly, after stories of Wright’s racist, anti-American worldview had been circulating for at least a year and only when videos showing Wright in all his vicious glory began to surface on the Internet – were forced to confront the possibility that the Illinois messiah might have some serious explaining to do, Obama realized his disclaimers and rationalizations concerning Wright weren’t enough.

Obama now desperately needed to convincingly distance himself from the Afrocentric radical who’d bestowed an award on Louis Farrakhan and whom Obama had, only weeks earlier, likened to a beloved “old uncle.”

As the liberal writer Gerald Posner acknowledged, Obama’s prevarications just didn’t ring true and were rife with internal contradictions.

“If the parishioners of Trinity United Church were not buzzing about Reverend Wright’s post-9/11 comments,” Posner wrote, “then it could only seem to be because those comments were not out of character with what he preached from the pulpit many times before. In that case, I have to wonder if it is really possible for the Obamas to have been parishioners there…and not to have known very clearly how radical Wright’s views were. If, on the other hand, parishioners were shocked by Wright’s vitriol only days after more than 3,000 Americans had been killed by terrorists, they would have talked about it incessantly. Barack – a sitting Illinois state senator – would have been one of the first to hear about it.”

So Obama gave a flowery speech on race relations in America, and did anyone doubt the media would swoon over whatever came out of his mouth? Liberals had too much invested in the storyline of a post-racial, biracial healer whose mission it was to set our national house in order after the unspeakable depredations of the George W. Bush years.

Hearts racing, pundits and editorial writers competed with each other in the prostration sweepstakes. (Lost in all the sticky-sweet commentary was the stark fact that Obama only gave the speech because his previous equivocations would wash no more. Obama’s ability to deliver a sweet speech was never in doubt; his judgment and honesty were, and on those counts he hardly acquitted himself with honor.)

“Profile in courage,” gushed The New York Times.

“Clear, nuanced and brilliantly honest,” trilled journalism professor James Klurfeld in Newsday.

“An extraordinary moment of truth-telling,” gasped the Washington Post. “One of the most impressive presidential candidates in years,” cheered political science professor Alan Wolfe in The New Republic.

“Perhaps the most thoughtful and sophisticated oration on race ever delivered by an American politician,” marveled New York Observer reporter Steve Kornacki.

“This searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime,” sobbed blogger and magazine writer Andrew Sullivan.

Well, it’s 2008 all over again. Look for much more of this over the next few months as liberal journalists and pundits do whatever they feel needs doing to grease Obama’s path to reelection.

Jason Maoz

WordPress Drops Greek Neo-Nazi Party Website

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

The Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, which won nearly seven percent of the vote in last week’s elections, has had its official website taken down by host WordPress.

“This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service,” said a message from WordPress that replaced their homepage.

The web page hosting service bars sites that include “hate content” or “contain threats or incite violence towards individuals or entities.”

The extreme-right Golden Dawn Party, whose flag closely resembles the Nazi swastika, received 21 seats in parliament, the first time it passed the threshold to enter the legislative body. It campaigned heavily on an anti-immigrant platform under the slogan “So we can rid this land of filth.”

Despite its strong showing, it is not clear how many Golden Dawn members would ultimately end up as lawmakers, as Greece appears headed to fresh elections. A poll published Sunday in the local To Vima newspaper indicated that in a new vote Golden Dawn support would shrink to under 4 percent.

Last week’s elections resulted in a fractured parliament as voters protested against the mainstream parties they blame for the country’s financial crisis and for accepting harsh European austerity measures.

Greek President Karolos Papoulias was holding last-ditch effort talks with political leaders on Sunday, trying to form a national unity government after the three largest parties failed to put together a coalition. If that fails the country must hold new elections in June.

Greece’s Jewish community has condemned the rise of Golden Dawn as “a serious blow for Greek democracy.”

JTA

Victorian Styles – The Comeback

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Are you totally bored of today’s uniform dress – that of a shell and pencil skirt? These wardrobe staples have carried you through the past few years’ whether the style was short, low-cut, sleeveless and/or sparkly. These basics faithfully converted any low- cut dress or top into modest attire fit for a formal environment.

Well, it’s finally time to bid them farewell, for “everything old is new again.” The sober, long sleeved, high-necked and ankle-grazing long has seized the fashion world. Last fall the runways were already chock full of unusually modest styles and cold geometric silhouettes.

The lace styles, remembered as a romantic material from Victorian times took on a whole new form as it re-entered the fashion scene. Lace pieces have been cut to look dark and matronly – even Prada’s lace dresses look dour, thus dubbed “Goth Grandma.” However those of you who are into the whole lace look, but don’t want to look like your great-grandma shouldn’t worry! There are plenty of fresh new ways to spin on old ideas – with bold colors, and unique cuts.

The maxi dress, epitome of old fashion was quite a shocker. Now only a short while later, the midi is the hottest item on the market! The midi is mid-calf length, which for religious women is a big relief, as it makes buying fashionable and trendy clothing easier and fun.

Economists have long used the skirt length theory to predict the direction of the stock market. They claim that in flush times, women’s fashions are boosted and so mini-skirts come into style. However, when the stock market is going south, the hemlines go down too. These longer styles certainly fit with our current depressing economy.

Fashonistas everywhere are wearing full-skirted dresses that hit perfectly mid-calf. Which is quite ironic, because for so many decades women fought to make wearing pants an acceptable social alternative to uncomfortable dresses! And now, only 70 years later these old-fashioned dresses are considered hot fashion.

The elbow and knee covering fashions have made shopping a far more enjoyable experience for a variety of religious sects. Mainstream chains like H& M, Banana Republic and Bloomingdales have become options for Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Mormons, who follow a strict code of modesty. All of this lends to a win-win situation for the shopper and store owner.

I remember the first time I found a modest looking skirt and blouse in Bloomingdales. I was so surprised to find something that I, a religious Jew could wear without alterations! I thought it was a fluke, not realizing it was part of a hot new trend.

So, next you’re in Macy’s, H&M, Bergdorf Goodmans, Gap, etc. and see outfits that your grandmother would approve of-stop! You’re not hallucinating and no one will look at you strangely, because they’re what’s in and happening these days! Remember the trendiest treasures will be found in grandma’s closet for “not only does history repeat itself, but so does fashion!”

Tzipori Weinberger

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/victorian-styles-the-comeback/2012/02/27/

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