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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

The Mainstreaming Of Chabad Rabbis

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

   I have witnessed a revolution. On a recent lecture tour that took me to Australia and South Africa, I hardly found a major mainstream synagogue without a Chabad rabbi. Shuls that once swore they would not invite in Chabad are now attracting large numbers of new members under the helm of young and charismatic Chabad rabbis. Many of them are the biggest shuls in their respective countries.
 
   In Sydney, Australia I spoke at Central Synagogue, where Rabbi Levi Wolf has transformed a shul on the decline into a powerhouse; for Rabbi Benzion Milecki, whose years at Southhead Synagogue have made it one of the most vibrant in the Southern Hemisphere; and for Rabbi Motti Feldman, creator of the vibrant Dover Heights community.
 
   In Cape Town, I spoke Friday night and Saturday at Sea Point Synagogue, with South Africa’s largest membership. It’s now on fire thanks to the charismatic leadership of Rabbi Dovid Weinberg. I also had the pleasure of speaking at Chabad of Cape Town, which for 35 years has molded Judaism in that city under the dedicated leadership of Rabbi Mendel Popack.
 
   In those countries, as in the United Kingdom and even the United States, Chabad rabbis are beginning to take over centrist, Modern Orthodox communities that once viewed Chabad as too religiously right wing.
 
   The mainstreaming of Chabad in leading synagogues around the world would seem to go against the Chabad model of opening independent Chabad Houses and building autonomous communities. On the other end of it, why would a Modern Orthodox shul choose a Chabad rabbi, whose chassidic lifestyle is seemingly so at odds with that of the congregation?
 
   Whereas other rabbis want to build shuls and increase membership, Chabad rabbis want people to practice Judaism. Chabad rabbis, even in large communities, are less interested in the institution of the synagogue and much more focused on the personal observance of individuals.
 
   The reason it works is that the whole problem with synagogue life is its institutionalized, depersonalized nature, which alienates people and makes them feel uncomfortable when they attend. But when the focus is on the person rather than the structure, no one feels like he or she is being asked to simply populate the pews.
 
   The Weinbergs in Cape Town are an example of how this works. I stayed in an apartment right across from them yet I barely got to see them, so busy were they hosting guests in their home, teaching bat mitzvah classes, conducting funerals and running the shul minyan, among countless other responsibilities. Their focus was not on their responsibilities to an institution’s board or membership but rather on giving their lives to the service of their fellow Jews who require religious guidance and inspiration.
 
   The Weinbergs do not have career but a calling. A career ends at night and stops completely on vacation. A calling is forever. It exists whenever there is anyone in need. And the Jewish people today have unending spiritual needs. The focus, for example, at a bat mitzvah class is not the speech the girl will give but the Shabbos candles she will light, the kosher food she will eat, and the Jewish books she will read well after the ceremony is over.
 
   But is it right for rabbis who run synagogues to put more emphasis on congregants observing tradition than on the functions of the shul? Is this not a diversion from their core responsibilities of building the congregation?
 
   Here’s my response, and it’s pretty brutal. Synagogue life for many is unbelievably monotonous. They find the shul service long and boring. We try to alleviate the bland routine of shul life with rabbis who are great speakers and by offering a delectable kiddush after the davening.
 
   Fair enough. Good whisky may indeed bring to life what can seem to some like a dead service. But the key to making shul exciting is making every person who attends feel like he or she belongs. Home life is exciting not because there are fireworks every night but because of the comfort and nurturing it provides. Shul is the same.
 
   When people start observing a Torah lifestyle they see the shul as an intrinsic element in their lives. It provides comfort for families and nurturance for the soul. As they find a sense of belonging they begin to participate, and the monotony ends.
 
   I regularly travel around the world to speak. I am at different shuls all the time. But I am never a stranger. I am always among my people. Because I am committed to Jewish life, every shul is my home.
 

   Chabad rabbis are enjoying so much success around the world as mainstream rabbis because their emphasis on Jewish observance over synagogue attendance makes people feel, once they do begin attending, that shul is an extension of home.

 

 

 

   Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Jewish Values Network and the bestselling author of 25 books including his most recent – “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.

Thoughts On Richard Goldstone, Samantha Power, And Israel

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

The subject of Judge Richard Goldstone came up quite frequently during my recent lecture tour in South Africa – at a dinner in Johannesburg at the home of Chabad head Rabbi David Masinter, where acquaintances of the judge were in attendance; at Sea Point Synagogue, South Africa’s largest, where I lectured and whose rabbi, Dovid Weinberg, had officiated at Goldstone’s grandson’s bar mitzvah; at my speech for Chabad of Cape Town and later in Pretoria.
 
The man the media describe as a “respected international jurist” and who had falsely accused Israel of war crimes was never far from anyone’s lips.
 
South Africans are among the world’s proudest Jews and most ardent Zionists. So it was understandable that they would detest Goldstone, viewing him a traitor to his people, a man who engaged in a blood libel against the Jewish state in order to enhance his standing at the United Nations.
 
I have never agreed with this assessment of Goldstone, seeing him instead as yet another useful idiot – a man so full of his own pomposity and self-righteousness as to be utterly blind to simple notions of right and wrong. Like Jimmy Carter, Goldstone is one of those well-meaning ignoramuses and nobly-motivated buffoons whose view of morality is that the party without tanks and an air force must of necessity be the party of justice.
 
This knee-jerk urge to champion the underdog, notwithstanding how evil the underdog may be, explains the shockingly obvious statement in Goldstone’s Washington Post op-ed mea culpa last week, in which he wrote, “In the end, asking Hamas to investigate [its own crimes] may have been a mistaken enterprise.”
 
It took a famous judge three years to come to the conclusion that asking a terrorist organization hell-bent on exterminating Israel to impartially report its own atrocities was, with hindsight, not the brightest idea.
 
In repudiating his earlier contention that Israel had intentionally targeted civilians in Gaza, Goldstone offers a classic lesson in how not to apologize. It turns out that however grave the damage inflicted on Israel’s global reputation by his false report, the slander was Israel’s fault:
 
“Israel’s lack of cooperation with our investigation meant that we were not able to corroborate how many Gazans killed were civilians and how many were combatants our recommendations did not include any evidence provided by the Israeli government.”
 
So Goldstone condemned Israel as a nation that directs its missiles intentionally at children because he did not have enough information from Israel to establish otherwise. And yet, just a few lines later in his op-ed, Goldstone writes that the UN Human Rights Council, which commissioned his report, has a “history of bias against Israel [that] cannot be doubted.”
 
So even Goldstone admits that Israel was being asked to cooperate with an investigation commissioned by an authority inherently prejudiced against it, which explains why Israel rightly refused to participate.
 
It’s clear that with his most recent ramblings the description “respected international jurist” will never again be appended to Goldstone.
 
Even more troubling are the comments attributed to Samantha Power, the rising star of the Obama administration who is being openly discussed as a replacement for Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
 
I am a huge fan of Power’s 2002 book A Problem from Hell, whichdetails how America refused to intervene to stop various genocides in the 20th century. I have repeatedly extolled the Pulitzer-prize winning book in lectures and columns and believe it should be required reading for every American high school student. I was also not surprised to read that it was Power who was instrumental in persuading an always reluctant President Obama to intervene in Libya before Khaddafi slaughtered all his people.
 
It was therefore with considerable sadness that I learned of Power’s troubling statements on Israel, comments that require clarification lest she compromise her own moral credibility. Is Powers accurately quoted as having said the United States should use military force to protect the Palestinians from Israel? Is Power really an advocate of greatly reducing or eliminating American military aid to Israel, channeling it instead to the Palestinians – who have repeatedly used foreign aid to foster hatred of Israel in schools, line the pockets of corrupt officials, and promote terrorism?
 
There is more, with Power having seemingly criticized The New York Times for being insufficiently critical of Israel after it attacked terrorist-saturated Jenin in 2002. And Power wrote in her book Chasing the Flame that what sparked Israel’s invasion of Lebanon was “dispossessed Palestinians and Israeli insecurity,” when in truth Israel invaded Lebanon to stop the incessant stream of rocket attacks that terrorized its northern cities. The phrase “Israeli insecurity” implies Israel is paranoid rather than reflecting the reality of a Lebanon dominated by Hizbullah, whose genocidal aim is the destruction of Israel.
 
I spent the last day of my African trip in Dakar, Senegal, where I visited Goree Island, the point of no return from which 14 million African slaves were sent to a life of hell in servitude. Both Presidents Clinton and Bush visited the island to acknowledge the American sin of slavery. Unsurprisingly, President Obama, with his strange reluctance to denounce great evils, has not.
 

Samantha Power is one of the few people with the president’s ear who can be relied on to influence him to overcome his inexplicable recalcitrance to broadcast American resolve abroad to stop the slaughter of innocents. It behooves her to immediately explain her issues with Israel, a nation whose principal purpose in having an army is to prevent yet another genocide of a people who suffered through an unparalleled one just a few decades ago.

 

 

 

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the bestselling author of 25 books, most recently Honoring the Child Spirit” and Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Desmond Tutu Vs. Israel: An Old Story

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

An old saying has it that “liberalism is always being surprised.” That is the only possible explanation of Jewish expressions of “surprise” and “shock” that Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu in late October urged the South African Opera troupe to cancel its engagement to perform “Porgy and Bess” in Israel.

Turning a blind eye to Tutu’s disparagement of Israel and indeed of Jews generally is, to be sure, not exclusively a Jewish failing. Just a few months ago, on the occasion of the Anglican clergyman’s 79th birthday, President Obama lauded him as “a moral titan – a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker.”

In this year alone Tutu has demonstrated his dedication to peace, justice, and principle in the Middle East in particular by speaking up for Hamas and supporting the “Freedom Flotilla” of Islamist jihadists and “internationalist” do-gooders (people who confuse doing good with feeling good about what they are doing) who last spring tried to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

He has also repeatedly endorsed the activities of the BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction) movement. This reincarnation of the Nazis’ “Kauf nicht beim Juden” campaign of the 1930s constantly invokes Tutu’s “authoritative” condemnation of Israel (where Arabs and Jews use the same buses, beaches, clinics, cafes, and soccer fields, and attend the same universities) as an “apartheid” state. Advertisement

But his fulminations against Jews have a long history, so well-documented that one wonders how the “surprised” Jewish leaders or President Obama can possibly be ignorant of it, especially now that the latter has a “director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism” named Hannah Rosenthal, who has shown herself adept even at spotting that evanescent phenomenon called “Islamophobia” at a distance of ten miles.

Here are just a few examples of the “moral titan” Tutu on the Jewish question:

On the day after Christmas 1989, Tutu, standing before the memorial at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem to the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis, prayed for the murderers and scolded the descendants of their victims. “We pray for those who made it happen, help us to forgive them and help us so that we in our turn will not make others suffer.” This, he said, was his “message” to the Israeli children and grandchildren of the dead.

Moral obtuseness, mean spite, and monstrous arrogance do not make for sound ethics and theology. Neither Tutu nor the Israelis he lectured can “forgive” the Nazi murderers. Representatives of an injured group are not licensed (even by the most sanctimonious of preachers) to forgive on behalf of the whole group; in fact, forgiveness issues from God alone. The forgiveness Tutu offers the Nazis is truly pitiless because it forgets the victims, blurs over suffering, and obliterates the past.

Tutu is always far less moved by the actuality of what the Nazis did (“the gas chambers,” he once said, “made for a neater death” than apartheid resettlement policies) than by the hypothetical potentiality of what, in his jaundiced view, Israelis might do. His speeches against apartheid returned obsessively to gross, licentious equations between the former South African system and Jewish practices, biblical and modern.

“The Jews,” Tutu declared in 1984, “thought they had a monopoly on God” and “Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” Tutu has been an avid supporter of the Goebbels-like equation of Zionism with racism. He has alleged that “Jews think they have cornered the market on suffering” and that Jews are “quick to yell ‘anti-Semitism’ ” because of “an arrogance of power – because Jews have such a strong lobby in the United States.”

Jewish power in America is, in fact, a favorite Tutu theme. In late April 2002 he praised his own courage in resisting it. “People are scared in [America] to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful, very powerful. Well, so what? Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.”

Tutu has repeatedly declared that (as he once told a Jewish Theological Seminary audience) “whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can’t ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people.” Certainly Tutu has never judged Jews by the standards he uses for other people. Although South African and American Jews were more, not less, critical of apartheid than the majority of their countrymen, Tutu in 1987 threatened that “in the future, South African Jews will be punished if Israel continues dealing with South Africa.”

Process, Loss and History

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Process, Loss and History

South African Projections:

Films by William Kentridge

The Jewish Museum, NYC

Until September 19, 2010

 

 

New York has gone through a William Kentridge craze this year. There have been scattered exhibitions in galleries throughout the cities, in addition to lectures and live performances.  From the blockbuster Five Themes show at the MoMA, the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Kentridge’s directed-and-designed multimedia version of Shostakovich’s The Nose, the South African artist has been a dominant voice on the New York art scene. For those who missed the incredible MoMA retrospective-or for those who simply wish for another Kentridge fix-a final salvo can be caught at the Jewish Museum’s exhibition of part of Kentridge’s Nine Drawings for Projection series.

 

 Though all of the pieces in the Jewish Museum’s exhibition were on display at the MoMA earlier this year, there is something to be gained by seeing them again in this smaller, more intimate setting. The very broadness and inclusiveness of the MoMA exhibition could be overwhelming: though the overall impression was incredibly powerful, some of the individual pieces could get lost. The Nine Drawing for Projection are amongst the most personal and moving pieces in the artist’s oeuvre, and the concentrated focus of the current exhibition allows these works the time and space to make their impact. It is a shame, however, that only the earlier works in this series-”Johannesburg” “Mine” “Monument” “Sobriety, Obesity, and Growing Old”-are on view. While they are thematically cohesive, the series as a whole is severely weakened by the absence of “Tide Table” and “Stereoscope”-in my opinion, the mature culmination of the elements raised in the earlier pieces.

 

 

William Kentridge, Mine, from Drawings for Projection (video still), 1991, 16mm animated film transferred to optical disk.  The Jewish Museum, New York; Purchase: Mr. and Mrs. George Jaffin Fund, Fine Arts Acquisition Committee Fund, and Lillian Gordon Bequest.

 

 

The context of the Jewish Museum exhibit highlights different aspects of the artist than the MoMA exhibition. William Kentridge is seen primarily as a South African artist. He first came to international attention with his highly political works made in the wake of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Indeed, the struggles of the emerging South Africa are in his blood. His paternal grandfather was a member of parliament; his maternal grandmother was the first female barrister in the country’s history; both his parents are attorneys who played prominent parts in the struggle against apartheid. Though most of his family has emigrated, Kentridge still lives and works in Johannesburg and his work is deeply affected by the landscape and history of his birthplace-as is evident in this exhibition. From “Johannesburg: Second Greatest City in the World after Paris” to “Tide-Table” (not on view in this exhibit),the short films are intertwined with references to his country’s saga. “I have been unable to escape Johannesburg,” the artist acknowledges. “In the end all my work is rooted in this rather desperate provincial city. I have never tried to make illustrations of apartheid, but the drawings and films are certainly spawned by and feed off the brutalized society left in its wake.”[1] Yet within the overtly political content of the Nine Drawings, the Jewish Museum draws attention to the more sublimated-but equally important-aspect of the artist’s identity: his Judaism.

 

The Nine Drawings are in some ways the most overtly Jewish of the artist’s works. In this series of short films, he introduces his two invented characters – Soho Eckstein, business tycoon in a pinstripe suit and Felix Teitlebaum, bohemian dreamer, often depicted in the nude. These characters and the relationships between them become archetypes for the emotional and political struggle of the country as a whole, yet their names set them firmly within the South African Jewish community, of which Kentridge is a part. Indeed, the artist used himself as the model for both characters and they share his slightly portly build and “Ashkenazi Jewish nose”-to use Kentridge’s own, unselfconscious description.

 

 

William Kentridge, Monument, from Drawings for Projection (video still), 1990, 16mm animated film transferred to optical disk.  The Jewish Museum, New York; Purchase: Mr. and Mrs. George Jaffin Fund, Fine Arts Acquisition Committee Fund, and Lillian Gordon Bequest.

 

The presentation of Soho in the early films as rapacious, gluttonous, heartless and money-grubbing thus treads an uncomfortable line, sliding perilously close to Der St?rmer-like stereotypes of hook-nosed Jewish capitalists. In an interview with Lilian Tones, Kentridge admits that “initially [he] would always conceive Soho as an other, as an alien, very much based on images of rapacious industrialists from Russian and early Futurist propaganda drawings, of George Grosz and German Expressionism.” Yet the introduction of Soho’s anti-establishment antagonist, Felix, serves to counter the shadow of stereotype.  “I find that very disarming,” says Norman Kleeblatt, chief curator of the Jewish Museum. “You ‎see Jews play both roles.” ‎And as Soho and Felix engage in a primal struggle that evokes Goya’s powerful images of war, the film becomes about universal human dualities. Indeed, Kentridge ultimately came to see Soho and Felix as “two different sides of one character rather than two fundamentally different characters” -and both as doppelgangers of himself.

 

In interviews, Kentridge has openly questioned why his two characters have Jewish names, and whether they are meant to represent or comment on the Jewish community. Leaving the question open, he says that the characters-complete with their names-came to him in dreams months before he created his first film.  As such, their Judaism may simply be part of the artist’s familiar surroundings. As Kentridge’s alter-egos, they partake of his environment. Yet, in these most personal of the artist’s works, the political and personal are intertwined. As Kentridge says “the films are about space between the political world and the personal, and the extent to which politics does or does not find its way into the private.”[2] So on another level, these films can also serve as a personal, idiosyncratic metaphor for Jewish life in South Africa.

 

 The duality of Soho and Felix-one formally clothed, the other unclothed; one civilized, the other natural; one part of hierarchal society, the other an outsider; one a businessman, the other a dreamer-can be seen as embodying the paradoxical position of Jews in South African society. On the one hand, many Jews-Kentridge’s family included-arrived as refugees to South Africa. They came as the oppressed and felt the precariousness of their position. This drove many of them (Kentridge and his family at the forefront) to take part in the struggle to end apartheid. Indeed, one can sense the shade of the Holocaust in Kentridge’s presentation of apartheid, especially in the imagery of showers and barracks of Mine. On the other hand, Jews benefited from the racial hierarchy. Many were actually granted refuge because of their skin color: when other countries were closing their doors to Jews, South Africa was allowing them in to help boost the white population. Kentridge grew up in an affluent Jewish community that reaped the benefits of being part of the white elite minority. In Kentridge’s own words “a central irony exists for South African Jews. Our Passover ceremony every year commemorates the Jews as slaves in Egypt. And there was always an understanding that here we are in South Africa talking about having been slaves in Egypt, yet in the present we are certainly not slaves In the present, we are absolutely not part of those most oppressed. We are part of the privileged whose lives are made comfortable by an immediate sense of the society we are living in. That remains an uncomfortable irony to ‎ live with.”[3] Guilt and the weight of racial violence permeate the Nine Drawings, a sickness within.

 

William Kentridge, Johannesburg, Second Greatest City after Paris, from Drawings for Projection (video still), 1989, 16mm animated film transferred to optical disk.  The Jewish Museum, New York; Purchase: Mr. and Mrs. George Jaffin Fund, Fine Arts Acquisition Committee Fund, and Lillian Gordon Bequest.

 

Yet ultimately, with all the contradictions, tensions and discontinuities, these films are about the words that flash at the end of Stereoscope: “Give/forgive.”  They are united by a sense of hope and reparation. Kentridge’s idealism, expressed in political activism, is perhaps embodied most powerfully in his conception of drawing.  Kentridge sees “the activity of drawing [as] a way of trying to understand who we are.” Though he is primarily a draftsman, he stands in opposition to the carefully measured space and proportions of a Renaissance artist. Drawing for him is a chaotic, developmental process, in which an image arrives in the work. This is reflected in his favorite drawing medium-the impermanent, endlessly moveable and changing charcoal. His conception of drawing is emphasized in his stop-gap animations, where the process is extended through time, every change preserved in a moment of film. Even as history is recorded, the ephemeral nature of the material is emphasized: it is primarily the movement of the eraser that creates the animation, the images emerging, changing, transforming, the shadowy blots of the eraser’s former movement preserved in the changing frame. Each object contains its whole history, a falling woman embodying every stage of her fall.

 

Kentridge’s method of working dovetails perfectly with his subject matter: the animations are histories of changed drawings, with all their failures and resurrections, and they deal with the history of post-apartheid South Africa, with all its failures and possibilities.  Contingent, always on the verge of being erased-but therefore also preserved from the permanence of evil. “Everything can be saved, everything is provisional,” Kentridge says. “A prior action is rescued by that which follows. A drawing abandoned is revived by the next drawing.” In conceiving of his art as process rather than object, in focusing on time rather than space, Kentridge’s work is hopeful. All failure and contradiction are subsumed within an ever-changing picture, a broadening understanding. 

 

              It is this unity of form and content, medium and message that gives Kentridge’s work its power. His overt politicism does not descend to propaganda because it is sublimated by his personal artistic language. History and loss, records and restoration: these are both the thematic and visual/material thrust of the work.

 

[1]As quoted in William Kentridge: Drawings for Projection, Four Animated Films. Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery, 1992, n.p.

[2]Interview with Lilian Tones, February 22, 1999,  http://artarchives.net/artarchives/liliantone/tonekentridge.html

[3]Interview with bell hooks, Interview. September 1998.

Brooklyn Food Co-op May Consider Israel Boycott

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

A Brooklyn food co-op that once boycotted products from South Africa because of its apartheid policy may consider doing the same to Israeli products in the coming months.

During an open forum at the Park Slope Food Coop’s January meeting, Hima B., one of the co-op’s 15,000 members, said, “I don’t know whether or not we carry Israeli products but [if we do] I propose that we no longer carry them.” Linewaiters’ Gazette, the co-op’s newspaper, reported that Hima was advised to pursue her suggestion through the Agenda Committee, which determines the items for discussion for each meeting.

Hima is apparently not alone in her sentiments. In the same Linewaiters’ Gazette issue, another member, Imrana Sayed, wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that “the Coop should print a list of products which are made in Israel, so members like me who care about this issue strongly have a choice not to purchase those items.” A third member, Carol Wald, wrote that consideration of a boycott is necessary “in light of the continued occupation of Gaza and this (most recent) ruthless war waged against its citizenry.”

The co-op, which includes many Jews ranging from Reform to chassidic, currently carries four products from Israel: sweet peppers, persimmons, paprika, and marshmallows. It carries approximately 10,000 items in total.

News of the proposed boycott has angered many Jews and bloggers. On Vosizneias.com, one anonymous commentator wrote, “I urge all Jews to immediately renounce their membership in this coop. [A]bsolutely disgusting.” Rabbi Andy Bachman of Park Slope’s Beth Elohim said his congregation might deny the co-op usage of its facilities for future meetings if it votes to boycott Israeli products.

At the same time, however, some pundits claim that the Forward, which first broke the story, and the blogosphere are making much ado about nothing. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ben Harris, who belongs to the co-op, wrote that one woman’s proposal during an open forum is far from a boycott in the making. The co-op’s strict rules, he wrote, do not allow members to discuss anything during their meetings unless it goes through several hurdles of procedural rules.

According to Gersh Kuntzman, editor of The Brooklyn Paper, “Stray comments at a Park Slope Food Coop general meeting don’t become Coop law until – and please believe me because I know this from personal experience – extensive debate, discussion and more mudslinging than at an organic composting facility.”

Allen Zimmerman, a general coordinator at the co-op, told The Jewish Press that Hima has not yet submitted an item to the Agenda Committee. And yet, although he hopes the matter won’t come up for a vote, he believes that it may well come to that stage at some future meeting. But its potential for passage is not great, he said.

Asked to describe the general mood among co-op members, Zimmerman said he has heard sentiments both for and against the boycott. Ultimately, though, he is “very doubtful that it would pass.”

As for his personal view, Zimmerman said, “No one in Gaza will be happier if the co-op doesn’t sell red peppers and no one in Israel will feel worse if the co-op doesn’t sell red peppers . All you can possibly do is give yourself some symbolic satisfaction and hurt the rest of your family . We’re part of a cooperative group of all kinds of Jews, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus – you can’t imagine how many religions come together here and work fairly harmoniously together. I don’t want to see disharmony brought to the cooperative.”

Title: In A Good Pasture

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Title: In A Good Pasture

Author: Dvora Waysman

Seven people from different parts of the world come together at an Israeli absorption center, to learn Hebrew and about life in their new country.  We meet them in the newest book by Dvora Waysman, In A Good Pasture (Mazo publishers).The absorption center is in Nazareth Illit and the author tells us that it is in this same place that she and her family spent the first five months of their Aliyah, many years ago. But she is quick to inform us that, notwithstanding the authentic setting, the book is a work of fiction.Lola and Ronald from England, Lee from America, Anna from Shanghai, David from South Africa, Jose from Spain and Freda from Australia, are as different as the countries they hailed from, and everyone a story in themselves.

Beautiful aristocratic Lee; why did she leave Las Vegas and New York for Israel?

Lola didn’t leave anything to the imagination, talking and laughing incessantly, the total opposite of her largely silent husband Ronald.

Anna, withdrawn and bearing the weight of a survivor on her shoulders, wore her loneliness on her sleeve.  Handsome David from South Africa was a typical playboy.  What brought him to Israel?

Freda was a little naive but very anxious to learn.  Jose a first class gentleman was the hardest to fathom.  What secrets lay behind his brooding visage?

As the story unfolds we become very caught up in the lives of each one − and without our even realizing it the land of Israel is unfolding before us, and we see it through the loving eyes of the author.  The Galilee, the Israeli coast and then Jerusalem, ah Jerusalem, what magic Dvora Waysman weaves.In A Good Pasture has the intrigues and pathos that one finds whenever real life situations are involved, and the reader’s attention will be held until the last page.

 

Dvora Waysman is an Australian-born writer now living in Jerusalem. She is the author of 10 books including The Pomegranate Pendant soon to be a movie; she is a syndicated columnist and a teacher of Creative Writing. She is also the grandmother of 18 Israeli children.  Her new novel In as Good Pasture will be published this year. Her e-mail: ways@netvision.net.il; website: www.dvorawaysman.com

Birthright Trips For Non-Jews

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

      Israel is about to turn 60 and the silence, outside of the Jewish community, is deafening. To date I have seen virtually no mention of the milestone in anything but Jewish publications.
 
      Israel’s monumental achievement, the fact that this tiny country with its neighbors hell-bent on eliminating it has somehow managed to survive, does not seem to be much of a story outside the Jewish world. Some would say this is appropriate. Israel is, after all, a Jewish state. Why should anyone else care?
 
      But on another level the fact that no one seems to be celebrating along with the Jews speaks volumes of our failure. Israel, it seems, has lost its ability to inspire all but Jews and evangelical Christians. These two groups see Israel’s creation and survival as possessing world-historical meaning. But to the rest of the world Israel is a country that is in the headlines because of bombs and battles. So the world is saying, no offense to you Jews, but what does your anniversary have to do with us?
 
      But wait a second. The anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was commemorated recently not just by African-Americans and not just in the United States but around the world – including in Israel. And this is because the movement that King led, while focused primarily on the plight of blacks in the South, was seen as a global cry for freedom and justice.
 
      The civil rights movement portended an end to racism and irrational prejudice in every corner of the globe. Thus, it has significance for people everywhere. But was Zionism at one time not viewed in the same light? Was it not also a movement by an oppressed people, persecuted in every land in which they resided, to find a home where they could live in peace and freedom? Has it now become a movement that speaks to none but Jews alone?
 
      I believe we Jews have unwittingly contributed to the insular and exclusivist mindset that has made Israel a Jewish-only project. And sixty years into the project, we must start thinking differently.
 
      Two great mistakes have been made by the global Jewish community with regards to Israel. The first was to portray Israel as a modern entity with negligible historical roots. The second was to portray Israel as a Jewish-only entity with little relevance to the rest of the world.
 
      Mistake number one is captured by a conversation I had with a businessman who told me a few months back that he was concerned that Israel’s emphasis on its 60th birthday might feed Arab propaganda that Israel is a modern entity – created by European-Jewish colonialists – that has usurped Arab land. Instead of calling this Israel’s 60th birthday party, he argued, why not have a different motto, something along the lines of “Three Thousand Plus Sixty,” that captures the uninterrupted nature of the Jewish people’s attachment to its ancestral homeland?
 
      He had a point.
 
      Every few years I travel to South Africa for book tours. Black South Africans, while receptive to Jews, can be ambivalent about Israel. To them Israelis seem like white people who colonized the darker-skinned inhabitants of a land not their own. The parallel to apartheid South Africa creates immediate sympathy for the Palestinian side.
 
      I respond by telling my African hosts that the parallel between the two stories is really the reverse. Like black Africans in their land, the Jews were the original people who inhabited ancient Israel. Then the Romans came, colonized the land, decimated the Jewish population, and exiled the Jews to Europe and other parts of the Empire. But the Jews never lost a connection to their ancestral home, prayed every day to return, and a sizable Jewish minority remained even after the exile. Then, two thousand years later, when the opportunity and resources presented themselves, we began to reconstitute ourselves as a sovereign entity.
 
      The second mistake, making Israel something of only Jewish concern, is captured in the most successful and visionary Jewish program of our time, Birthright Israel. Birthright is nothing short of a miracle, and one of the reasons I so revere my friend Michael Steinhardt and his counterpart Charles Bronfman is because of their foresight in seeing just how inspirational the modern Jewish state could be to disaffected Jewish youth.
 
      But why stop there? Israel has the power to inspire non-Jewish youth as well.
 
      The Jews are history’s most influential people, having given the modern world its three foundations: God (universal brotherhood), the Ten Commandments (law), and the Messiah (progress aimed at perfecting the world). Those ideas were all born in the very soil of Israel, the world epicenter of faith and spiritual transcendence.
 
      But that’s not how the modern world sees it. India and Tibet have become the place of pilgrimage for Westerners seeking enlightenment. Just look at the level of sympathy the world rightly has for Tibet’s struggle against China versus the seeming lack of sympathy for Israel’s struggle against terrorism. That’s because the world feels it has a stake in Tibet’s welfare.
 
      The Dalai Lama has successfully portrayed his homeland as a place from which light shines to the entire earth and not just Buddhists. Should we not portray Israel in the same authentic light?
 
      I believe that of all the presents we can give Israel as it turns “Three Thousand Plus Sixty,” none would be more helpful than to inaugurate a Birthright for non-Jewish youth program that would seek to bring 50,000 non-Jewish students from around the world to Israel every year. Campuses are the venues where Israel is most attacked in the West today. Why not expose non-Jewish students to how stirring Israel is and give them a stake in its future?
 
      I’m supposed to be leading a press and media Birthright Trip to Israel for Mayanot this summer. Many of my non-Jewish colleagues in the media have practically begged me to attend. Birthright alumni from all over the globe will tell you the same. Their non-Jewish friends are envious of the transformative trip to Israel that right now is the preserve of Jewish youth alone.
 

      As for the cost, churches all over the U.S. would contribute, as would non-Jewish philanthropists and foundations sympathetic to Israel. And it would be the best PR Israel ever had.

 

 

      Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hosts a daily radio show in the United States and has just published “The Broken American Male and How to Fix Him.” Visit his website, www.shmuley.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/birthright-trips-for-non-jews/2008/04/30/

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