- Written by Rabbi Mark Levin, Guest Columnist
- Parent Category: Opinion
- Category: Latest Opinion
- Published: 07 August 2014
- Hits: 241
Are Jews the canary in Western Civilization’s cultural mine?
I can’t help but find a correlation between Muslim migration into Europe and other non-Muslim countries and the rising clamor of anti-Semitism in those countries. Hamas instigated violence in Gaza, knowingly using civilians as shields for their missiles, and there has been an outcry from around the world condemning Israel for protecting itself. It seems to me to be a well-orchestrated sequence of events where Hamas’ action and Israel’s reaction has resulted in certain sections of the world immediately pouncing on Israel rather than on the perpetrators. As Muslims get stronger in traditionally non-Muslim countries, I am very afraid that things will get worse, not just for Israel, but for Jews everywhere. Israel and Jewish communities around the world need to go on a massive public relations offensive to remind the world that Israel is the victim and not the world’s greatest enemy.
It has come to the attention of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council that an official of the Kansas Republican 3rd Congressional District Committee recently issued a highly-prejudicial and inflammatory anti-Muslim statement on Twitter. As shocking as the tweet itself, the Kansas Republican Party has disavowed any responsibility for “public statements of private citizens” and has refused to issue an apology for the since-deleted tweet or to remove the official from his post, although the official himself has since resigned.
In these days of shootings and tension, both locally and internationally, there is no excuse for such irresponsible language and incitement, in particular from officials of civic and political organizations. Interfaith dialogue is important for the purpose of learning and healing. No “conversation” or communication against any religion is acceptable, as its only purpose is to spread hatred and misunderstanding.
The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council deplores bigotry in all forms and calls on all citizens to always keep in mind how thoughtless language can lead to reckless behavior and to act with compassion in all communications and endeavors.
Sheila Sonnenschein, convener
Rev. Mary McCoy, co-convener
Greater Kansas City
Are Jews the canary in Western Civilization’s cultural mine?
How come so few Jews in North America know how to speak Hebrew?
Sure a lot of them know how to read Hebrew from Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and there is a flowery English translation in the prayer books. So why can’t Jews speak modern Hebrew?
Did the rabbis, who for years spend so much time repeating the same prayers over and over again, ever sit us down and explain to us the simple three consonant verb root system and the pattern of tenses? It can be done in 15 minutes! I had to learn it in a kibbutz ulpan.
Now the World Zionist Organization in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Education is starting a program to get all the North American Jews to speak modern Hebrew. People cynically say “Good luck!”
It is said that the Jewish diaspora is weakening in a number of ways. There are a number of systems to learn Hebrew. “Repetition is the mother of learning.”
Hebrew is the glue that holds us together.
Probably more Arabs than North American Jews can speak Hebrew!
So, if the Jews are supposed to be so smart, how come we can’t speak our own language?
Overland Park, Kan.
Thank you to the Flo Harris Foundation for continued funding of SAFEHOME’s Jewish Outreach Program for 2014-2015. SAFEHOME hired me 14 years ago as the Jewish Outreach program coordinator and volunteer manager. I am happy to say that providing Jewish outreach is still an important part of my SAFEHOME responsibility. Over these 14 years, a major shift occurred among our Jewish clergy in recognizing that domestic abuse can happen in their congregational families. It’s a positive change.
Never underestimate the power of knowledge. Emergency cards about our services appear in bathrooms throughout the Jewish Community Campus and in most of our community’s synagogues and temples thanks to dedicated volunteers. Several temples and shuls send groups to volunteer at SAFEHOME; these “mitzvah projects” always start with an informational talk before the actual volunteering.
Whether it’s speaking to a mitzvah group, or at a community function, it’s not uncommon for someone to pull me aside asking a “hypothetical question,” or to share a story of her (or his) own history with domestic violence. It still takes my breath away. Usually the person tells me about abuse that happened years ago, but never told anyone because of the fear of not being believed. That person knows I will, and I am grateful to represent SAFEHOME and be able to offer empathy, and resources when necessary. These stories are always hard to hear, but need to be shared; unfortunately this problem affects our community. Jewish tenets such as shalom bayit sometimes keep victims from seeking help. One ever-present goal is to remind individuals that it is the responsibility of each person in a relationship to create that “peace.”
Again, thank you to the Flo Harris Foundation for allowing SAFEHOME to sustain this education and connection to resources. Even after the “actual volunteering,” junior volunteers from the Jewish community who performed in “The Outrage” still give back by spreading their knowledge regarding healthy relationships and dating violence. The bottom line is, you just never know when the knowledge you share will help someone else — perhaps even save a life — and as written in Talmud, “… whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
Jewish Outreach Program Coordinator
Are you concerned that Kansas schools have been underfunded? Are you upset that the Overland Park City Council (and other cities) had to repeal its ban on the open carry of guns in the city because of laws passed in Topeka? Do you want the legislature to try to pass another version of the discrimination bill that would have allowed people (including police and protective services, etc.) to refuse to provide services if it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs (e.g. to someone who was gay)? These are only a few of the issues at stake in the Aug. 5 primary and Nov. 4 general election.
First, go to jocoelection.org to lookup your elected officials. Look at the sample ballot for the Aug. 5 primary. Then go to the non-partisan site votesmart.org to see the key votes of YOUR Kansas representative. Did (s)he support HB 2453 (discrimination)? HB 2473 (guns)? HB 2506 (school funding bill that did not restore all the funding lost to public schools in recent years, just shifted it around but DID give corporations tax breaks for contributions to private school scholarship funds and removed teachers’ due process rights.).
Be an informed voter! Don’t sit out the primary or the general election because YOUR VOTE MATTERS. Kansas is at risk if “good people do nothing.”
Alice J. Capson
Overland Park, Kan.
I was irate after watching the late CNN news on July 10. Anderson Cooper pretended to deliver a factual report about Israel’s bombing of Arab residences, with a slight nod in the direction of fairness by reporting that Israel gives warning to the families in those structures that they will be attacked momentarily and should seek safety.
My husband Harold and I were fortunate to attend the Mucolipidosis Type 4 (ML4) Foundation Family & Research Conference last month in Atlanta. ML4, a relatively unknown genetic disorder, is one of 60 lysosomal disorders that affects the brain, cells, eyes, digestive system, kidneys and an ability to walk, talk and function. It
The name “Soul Encounters” appropriately identified the program at Chabad House Center, which took place Tuesday, July 1, 3rd of Tammuz. Nearly 100 people attended.
Anti-Semitism is a worldwide problem that is getting worse, especially overseas. Our best protection is education, making living conditions better for others and swift eradication of extremist Islamic factions. We can
During my journey through life, as the years have rolled on, I have discovered that time flies even when you’re not having fun — and suddenly even a watershed event can sneak up on one, as it did me.
Let’s just say that missiles and bomb shelters were not on the itinerary of our 16-year-old daughter’s pilgrimage trip to Israel this summer.
I spoke to her this morning. Yeah, the alarms are unnerving, she said, but absolutely, she wants to stay with her group.
Again today, we say OK. But as the bad news keeps streaming in, my husband and I ask ourselves, no doubt in the company of the other tortured parents whose children are there: Are we crazy?
We’re not asking our family and friends to answer that. We get texts by the day, showing support along with various degrees of restraint. “Is Jesse safe?” “You guys okay with Jesse in Israel?” Our rabbi calls repeatedly to check in. My mother-in-law cuts to the chase, no doubt echoing the true sentiments of many: “Are there plans to get the kids out yet?”
The truth is, we’re not really OK. But, along with hundreds of other parents in our position, we are choosing to tolerate our discomfort, because it’s a complicated choice that involves us as parents, Americans and Jews.
How do we see our choice?
First, although anxious, we use statistics to help prevent us from truly fearing for our daughter’s safety. So far, more than 1,000 missiles have been fired into Israel with relatively few casualties. “The odds of actually being hit by one of these rockets is like winning the lottery,” our Israeli friend says. “Except you have a better chance of winning the lottery.”
Our daughter was probably at greater risk of injury in the cab ride to JFK the day of her flight.
My own experience with Israel helps. Having spent childhood summers there, I grew accustomed to its dual realities. I remember obsessing about my SAT scores as my cousin went off to mandatory paratrooper training for the Israel Defense Forces. See a paper bag on a bench? Run and tell one of the dozens of soldiers walking the streets — soldiers who are your age, in army fatigues with M-16s around their necks. You live surrounded by some of the best protection in the world.
But when it’s your own kid walking those streets in need of that protection, it’s not so easy. It helps to read the daily reports from the organization to which we’ve entrusted our child’s care. The National Federation of Temple Youth, Ramah, United Synagogue Youth — these institutions have led American teenagers through Israel for decades. For them, this last week is sadly not far from business as usual. Veterans at coordinating with Israeli military and government officials, they’ve kicked into high gear, dispatching security guards to travel with our kids and evaluating each group’s itinerary day by day.
Finally, we battle our anxiety and the pressure to bring our kids home with the values that led us to send them to Israel in the first place. Our kids went to learn about their heritage and legacy. After a week in Warsaw and Krakow where they walked along the same railroad tracks that carried their ancestors to oblivion, they came to Israel to experience its complexities and wonder. They came to explore their identity, and their larger story, as Jews and Americans. Frighteningly, tragically, this conflict is part of that story.
So as long as we feel certain that the risk of true danger is remote, we will honor our daughter’s wish. Because to us, aborting the trip would be a triumph of anxiety over a higher cause. Staying the course, our daughter will understand on a whole new level what it means to be part of a society that has to fight for its freedom and democracy. She will learn in a powerful way what it means to stand in solidarity with her people and our homeland.
We also hope she will come home with a deepened spirit and perspective, with a new understanding of the tragedy of war, and a new appreciation of America’s gifts. We know she will learn from the unimaginable bravery, resilience and grit of the Israeli people, our brothers and sisters.
Staying, she gets an unforgettable chance to practice courage and commitment to something greater than oneself. Something else, too, that all of us nervous parents are hoping.
Maybe our children will return home passionately empowered as Jews, Americans and global citizens, with all the complications and ambiguities of these roles. Maybe they’ll grow to be part of a new generation of leaders who do a better job than we have at running this world.
Still, it’s no picnic to know that our choice to allow our daughter access to this experience will likely change her in ways we won’t be able to control or ever fully comprehend.
“We’re all fine, Mom,” my daughter said to us after taking cover in the shelter during this morning’s latest alarm. “It’s freaky, but it’s OK. It’s good.”
In our hearts, we pray that she, and we, are right.
Julie Fingersh grew up in the Kansas City area and lives with her family in San Rafael, Calif. She is a writer, college consultant and regular contributor to The Huffington Post and the daughter of Pella and Jack Fingersh.
My mother wants me to come home. I’ve been calling her every day, and she wants me on a plane immediately. She has been watching the news and following events as they unfold here in Israel and she is very understandably concerned for the well-being of her child.
Our Jewish community has held two memorial services in the last three months — 77 days apart to be exact. Thousands of people attended the first one, as the Jewish community grieved for the senseless deaths of three people killed on the grounds of Jewish communal agencies, allegedly by a man who was looking to kill Jews. We all know by now that the three people who were murdered were not Jews and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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