JTNews | August 6, 2010

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JTNews | The Voice of Jewish Washington for August 6, 2010


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august 6, 2010 26 av 5770 volume 86, no. 16 $2

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the rabbis turn

letters to the editorPrinciPled and courageous

Can we listen to one another while disagreeing?Rabbi beRnie Fox Northwest Yeshiva High SchoolMy wife Shirley and I spent this past Shabbat in Pittsburgh visiting my mother. In the morning, I arrived at synagogue and took my usual seat next to where my father, of blessed memory, sat for many decades. Two rows in front of me was another visitor. Slowly, I realized this guest was the many-decadeslater version of a dear high school friend. Just to make sure my analysis of the effect of aging on facial and body features was not flawed, I decided to wait before introducing myself. When he was called up to the Torah, his name and voice confirmed my conclusion. With my analysis completed, I introduced myself and discovered that apparently aging had had a greater effect on my features than on his. But slowly, the light of recognition illuminated his eyes. We embraced and after services caught each other up on our respective lives and adventures. My friend Dov is older than me. He was a senior in high school when I was a freshman. But in a small yeshiva high school with 75 students, these issues were not crucial in forming friendships. Dov became somewhat of a mentor to me. It was interesting to speak to him decades later and reencounter some of the same qualities that so impressed me as a teenager. I tell my students it is wonderful to debate one another. The process forces the participants to clarify and to refine their positions. However, debate and dialogue oftentimes fail to achieve this result because the parties are simply not listening to one another. Each participant is so enamored with his own position that rather than considering the what the other has to say, he blindly promotes his own. The participants are not talking with one another; they are talking at one another. So, in order to enable my students to meaningfully debate and discuss positions, I begin by teaching them to listen to one another. One way I do this is by insisting that a participant repeat his or her opponents position before posing a question or formulating a response. This is not merely a classroom exercise it is a tool for life. How much conflict would be avoided or resolved if the parties would merely take the time to consider each others positions rather than focusing exclusively on promoting their own perspectives! As I spoke to Dov, I was reminded how he is a remarkable listener. He was not interested in telling me about himself, his children, and grandchildren until he had heard about my family. And he did not just act as if he was listening so as to be polite while his mind roamed the galaxy he was fully focused. When we show that level of interest in another person, we acknowledge that individuals intrinsic worth and sanctity. Speaking with Dov, I realized that by helping my students listen more intently to one another, I am not only helping them dialogue more effectively, I am teaching them to treat others with the deference modeled by my friend. Sunday night we reconvened, now joined by my brother-in-law and sisterin-law. Dov shared a wonderful story about his mother, Evelyn. Evelyns grandfather was an ardent Zionist even before Theodore Herzl popularized the concept. Evelyn was raised in a Zionist home and as an adult was a member of many of Pittsburghs Zionist organizations; actually, she was a member of all of them. She was active in Mizrachi, the religious Zionist organization, gave a weekly class for Hadassah, served as an officer of the Zionist Organization of America, and paid dues to various other organizations. At one point, a conflict had developed with the ZOA regarding its direction. Some members felt the organization had shifted to the right and ultimately these members left the ZOA to form a Pittsburgh chapter of a more moderate Zionist organization. Evelyn immediately joined the new organization. She explained that although she was an officer of the ZOA, she would not countenance the existence of a Zionist organization in Pittsburgh in which she was not a member. In other words, she believed that the issue uniting all Zionists love for and support of the State of Israel was far greater than the issues upon which different organizations disagreed. I believe that this attitude reflects the ability to be a good listener. Evelyns attitude required that she look beyond her position in a tense dispute, understand the other partys position, and recognize that despite the dispute, all the parties shared many of the same fundamental values. If only we could all do this! I also observe this attitude in my students at NYHS. They come from diverse religious backgrounds. Many are from OrthodoxX Page 8

I am glad to see coverage of the Olympia Co-ops decision to boycott Israeli products. It is a principled and courageous action and naturally they are taking heat for it. Many Jews like myself are not represented by Israel and Zionism. I doubt even a majority of U.S. Jews are. I am glad to see activism that seeks to overturn Israels crimes against Palestinians and against Israel destroying Jewish traditions of fighting for the oppressed, and of valuing honor and justice. adrienne Weller seattlethe giFt oF liFe

Thank you, Erez Ben-Ari, for a very moving column (Not just for anyone, July 9) making a very important point about how organ donation saves lives. Albert Behar and his family are very close friends of mine. I have nothing but admiration and respect for Lea Hanan for bravely donating one of her kidneys to save her fathers life. It was not only a great Fathers Day gift, but shows a daughters love and gratitude to him for all he has done for her. Im delighted to hear both of them are doing well. Albert has been a very active volunteer at the Seattle Hebrew Academy, where he is affectionately called Uncle Albert. May he be blessed with many more years of good health to continue volunteering at the school where he is much loved. Josh basson seattle

Write a letter to the editor: We would love to hear from you! our guide to writing a letter to the editor can be found at www.jtnews.net/index.php?/letters_guidelines.html, but please limit your letters to approximately 350 words. the deadline for the next issue is august 10. Future deadlines may be found online.

What should we do about BDS?Joel Magalnick Editor, JTNewsTheres going to come a time in the notso-distant future that the news of a food cooperative or some company deciding to boycott Israel isnt going to make the front page of the JTNews. And if the past year is any indication, these events arent going to lose front-page status because the issue is going to disappear. Its going to be because it happens so often, the issue is going to be become routine. Oh, look, there goes another one. So what do we do about this? The first thing we need to do is understand that people on the different sides of this issue are not speaking the same language. Earlier this summer Ethan Felson, director of domestic concerns of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, an umbrella group for Jewish public policy organizations, spoke at a conference I attended about boycotts against Israel. We are excellent at coming up with the self-resonating messages, he said. We know what they need to hear. And we are very, very good at writing that letter to the editor and showing it to our spouse and saying, Doesnt that work? and then hearing exactly what we want to hear, not necessarily knowing that the person who reads it might be looking for something different. It says something when letters I see in the Seattle Times defending Israel exemplify that and do nothing to further the argument in Israels favor. Where many of us see the existence of a Jewish homeland as something embedded in our DNA, plenty of others, even in religious communities, see a nation with the upper hand hell-bent on keeping an underdog in its place. Theres generally not context attached to the images, but theres a growing consensus, even among Jews especially among Jews that what Israel is doing with the Palestinians needs to change. That probably explains why the organizations promoting BDS that now-ubiquitous acronym of boycott, divestment and sanctions are so quick to point out the Jews in their midst. Felson suggests finding common ground with people on the other side of this issue: Peace, personal stories, shared values, and giving context by moving the conversation from occupation to terrorism. In essence, acknowledging the concern about the offense while justifying the defense. But the effort of personal contactX Page 4

no, theyre not. Mines much more boring. Author Jonathan Tropper. see an interview on page 23.



JTNews . www.JTNews.NeT . friday, augusT 6, 2010

W BDS Page 3

might not be enough. People have to be willing to listen. Lets think about local efforts at BDS and how, until last month, they had been unsuccessful. This is important, because it isnt a story of right over might, as one would hope. Its a story of procedure undoing passion. But make no mistake: People who feel a sense of attachment to Israel are starting to see ourselves on the losing end of this battle. Consider what was probably the biggest local effort thus far, Initiative 97. That effort in 2008 would have forced the City of Seattles retirement board to divest from some companies that do business with Israel. Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company that sells its products to the Israeli Defense Forces, was on that list, which is quite remarkable because Caterpillar operates under U.S. anti-boycott laws, Felson noted. Caterpillar cant not sell to Israel. And so they chastise Caterpillar for operating within the law. I-97 was thrown out due to a jurisdictional issue. Then theres the Central Co-op boycott resolution, which never even made it

to a vote before the board tossed it out because the phone calls and e-mails to the store had gotten so voluminous the issue had begun to get in the way of what the co-op is first and foremost supposed to be doing: Selling food. But heres the common thread: When these efforts, and the many others like it, failed, it was because of procedural mistakes or unnecessary burdens on business. Just because the boycott failed does not mean the people who ended the effort agree with Israels behavior. And when the co-op board was getting annoyed about this issue, it became immediately clear that their annoyance wasnt with the people supporting the boycott. A month ago, in Minnesota, Israel supporters got (another) reprieve when language in a resolution presented to attendees at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church would have recommended sanctions and divestment against Israel. The recommendations were made by a committee that accused Israel of apartheid tactics and would have asked the U.S. to withhold funding as a means of pressuring Israel, according to a report by the JTA news service. This is, I dont have to remind you, a mainline American Christian church, with

tens of millions of members and churches on almost as many corners as Starbucks. That brings us to Olympia. Last month, when the board there voted almost unanimously to take the handful of Israeli products they have off their shelves, the BDS supporters finally got a victory. As small as the Olympia Food Co-op is, the echo from the first domino finally falling reverberated around the world. The co-op is holding a meeting next week to discuss the issue kind of the backward way of doing things and the way this democratic organization so proudly stifled an open discussion before the vote runs counter to cooperative principles established nearly 80 years ago. The conditions set for repeal are, as one opponent of the decision put it, a complete dissolution of Israels Jewish character. Between the hard lines drawn on both sides will be, I hope, the glimmer of understanding about why boycotting an entire country, as opposed to a corporation, for example, is such a bad idea: Its futile to pressure a government, which is looking at more than the bottom line, to change its ways because a store 10,000 miles away is refusing to sell bulk couscous. Not to mention that doing so doesnt solve any problems.

For Israeli officials, Felson said, divestment is another fly in the ointment. Theyre used to Israel being criticized. But the BDS movement is growing, and both sides are doing so much educating that it really is getting harder and harder to know who exactly is telling the truth, and what one nugget of fact means when taken in a greater context. Most of us just dont have the time or inclination to parse out each detail and figure out how exactly to combat what doesnt sound quite right, though we just dont know why. And then we scratch our heads when yet another cooperative, that bastion of progressive capitalism and democracy, decides to banish from its shelves the products from a capitalist, democratic country. So the question for us American Jews is, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to continue to play defense and merely monitor the situation or are we going to get in front of it not with educational materials and historical facts, but with engagement and attempts to move the conversation forward? A slap on the wrist in the form of a boycott does just the opposite. But the continual black eyes Israel is receiving in the press are beginning to take its toll, and a large number of us are beginning to lose patience.

QFC proudly supports Seattle Childrens HospitalBy Kristin Maas, QFC Public Affairs Director Seattle Childrens is a hospital with a history that is both heartwarming and inspiring. Its the story of a Seattle woman named Anna Clise who watched her six-year-old son, Willis, die of inflammatory rheumatism. Anna turned her grief into hope, leading the effort to create a hospital dedicated to the care of children. The hospital was founded in 1907. Today, Seattle Childrens is one of the nations leading pediatric hospitals, combining unsurpassed medical skill, groundbreaking research, and profound human compassion in the effort to cure and prevent childhood disease. Its a special place designed around, and for, children and their families. They are c...