JTNews | December 10, 2010

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JTNews | The Voice of Jewish Washington for December 10, 2010


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december 10, 2010 3 tevet volume 86, no. 26 $2

Joel Magalnick

KING-5 reporter Joe Fryer, bottom right, shoots video as students in Red Square on the University of Washington campus attempt a record: Most dreidels spun at one time. While organizers at Hillel UW didnt quite beat the record 618, they gave out more than 250 dreidels and nearly as many freshly fried latkes.

Evergreen: The hard conversations not taking placeEric Nusbaum assistant editor, JTnewsNoah Milstein enrolled at The Evergreen State College to learn about Paleolithic culture and technology. He sought out Evergreen because its flexible academic structure would allow him to create his own program of study. What he got instead was an education in political activism and campus politics. Milstein founded a pro-Israel group at Evergreen in 2008. He left the college feeling like a campus villain in 2009. At a school famous for its leftwing values, Milstein felt unable to function on campus due to the ever-present specter of his vocal Zionism. I became the token campus Zionist Nazi, Milstein said. It really was damaging psychologically. I felt like I couldnt trust anyone. I became completely paranoid. Milstein, who subsequently enrolled at Haifa University, was not alone in leaving Evergreen before graduation. Five fellow members of the short-lived club Students Interested in Israel Advocacy and Peace (SIIAShalom) followed suit. Milsteins experience, and others like it, are symbolic of what some key members of the states Jewish community see as a broader issue: A poisonous discourse over Israel that makes life at Evergreen uncomfortable for Jewish students, especially those with Zionist views. In this article and in our next issue well explore the nature of that discourse. Well ask whether Evergreen is a hard place to be a Jew or a Zionist, or whether debate aboutX PaGe 38


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Take a stand against boycotts this holiday seasonEthaN FElsoN JTa World news ServiceNEW YORK (JTA) Whats old is new, and unfortunately this holiday season, wrapped in a bow, is a boycott of things Israeli and Jewish. The relics of past boycotts from Nuremberg to Damascus are back. Uninterested in reconciliation, the extremist and myopic fervor that undergirds the campaign to boycott Israel should be a wake-up call for those who have hit the snooze button too many times. Issuing the latest appeal for boycotts is the North American affiliate of the Sabeel Center, a group that wraps its disdain for the Jewish State in a cloak of Christian concern. Sabeels leader has said that Israel operates a crucifixion machine and that security is a pagan god that Israel worships. It wields the word apartheid like a cudgel. The centers holiday boycott call targets more than a dozen companies because they operate in Israel or their owners are guilty of the sin of being Israeli, Jewish or affiliated with either. They manufacture goods in Israel, in the West Bank and in America. Their products include cosmetics, clothing, cell phones and prepared foods. Most cannot be tied in any rational way to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That gets to the heart of it. The so-called BDS movement (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) isnt here to help Palestinians; its a pernicious call to harm Israel and world Jewry. Its proponents seek to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into every sphere of American life. Boycott supporters dont seem to care who gets caught in their snare, including tens of thousands groups backing BDS support Israels right to exist as a Jewish state. Promote peace. Call on churches and others being roped into the BDS drama to seek something better. Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace: Two peoples, two states, living side by side. Their peace will come when the parties are confident. Foster reconciliation. Many organizations are working tirelessly to bring together Israelis and Palestinians, and Jews, Christians and Muslims. They deserve our support. Balanced travel missions demonstrate the complexity of the conflict and the need for peacemakers, not bomb throwers, rhetorical or otherwise. Stay civil. Avoid shouting and name calling. As tempting as it may be to call for a boycott of companies owned by Sabeels supporters, we need to reject ineffective and partisan virtual warfare. We are not the parties to the conflict. A zero-sum, scorched earth approach that thrives on division helps no one. Buycott instead of boycott. A few mud masks and an extra container of hummus cant hurt. Get involved. Thankfully, the alarm has gone off and friends of Israeli-Palestinian peace are pushing back. The Israel Action Network, a partnership of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, will mobilize Jewish federations, agencies and JCRCs across North America to respond effectively to the assault on Israels legitimacy. Get up. Get trained. And go to work.Ethan Felson is the vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

courTeSy aJcSeaTTle

From left to right, adam Goldblatt, Marjorie Kaiz Offer, Racquel Holcman and Barbara Shulman went to the albertsons on Mercer Island on Nov. 30 to participate in a buycott, in which they specifically bought products made in Israel to support the country. That albertsons store has an expanded kosher section that includes a wide array of Israeli foods.

of American workers employed by these companies. In so many ways it is a boycott of American values. Estee Lauders sin is being owned by the volunteer leader of the Jewish National Fund. Sara Lee and LOreal are guilty of having been praised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Another company is guilty of being owned by a friend of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Also in Sabeels crosshairs is a California-based business building a green transportation infrastructure electric car charging stations in Denmark, Australia, Hawaii and Israel. Its owner was named to Time magazines list of environmental heroes. But he is

Israeli, so his company makes the list. What can we do? Here are some suggestions: Build bridges. Most Americans understand that such campaigns will not change governmental or corporate policies. So reach out to them in their churches, civic groups, where you work and in your neighborhood. The people calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions are at the margins of public debate. Their goal is to poison the well at home. Dont let them. Make the case. Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people. It seeks to live in peace and security. BDS is a tactic aimed to delegitimize Israel. None of the


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the rabbis turn

letters to the editorWords oF Wisdom?

Curbing our enthusiasmThe character Larry David plays on TV is one of the most annoying, infuriating people any one of us could ever meet. He is self-centered to the point of absurdity and his need to be right about everything jeopardizes his closest relationships. In the seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry tries to reconcile with his estranged wife, Cheryl. In the seasons last episode, Cheryls resistance is finally breaking down. But, in the meantime, Larry has been accused by a friend of putting a glass of water on a wooden table and staining the wood. He is convinced he is innocent and passionately searches for the real criminal. In the last scene of the season, Cheryl looks at Larry lovingly, and tells him she thinks they really belong together. They are about to embrace. But Cheryl has a drink in her hand. She puts it down on the wooden table so she can give Larry a hug. At that moment, Larrys eyes open wide and a look of horror crosses his face. He looks at Cheryl accusingly and says, Do you respect wood? The moment of tenderness passes, and the season ends. In the book of Devarim, we read the famous line: Tzedek, tzedek tirdof! justice, justice, you shall pursue. To be a rodef tzedek is to be emotionally churned up about whats wrong in the world. Yet the rabbis went out of their way to undermine this text. Why tzedek tzedek, asked the rabbis? Wouldnt one tzedek have been enough? They answered: Echad din, vechad pshara. One tzedek is to teach us we should pursue whats right. And, the other tzedek teaches us to compromise. Why did the rabbis do this? After all, compromise is about letting go of some of our desire for justice. But the rabbis understood that our unchecked passion for justice has the potential to do tremendous damage to our relationships. In Benjamin Balints new book, Running Commentary, he says that Commentary Magazine has lost some of its vibrance because it has settled into an ideological position that is too comfortable and predictable. There was a time, says Balint, that you could see warriors of the right and the left slugging it out in the pages of Commentary. Nowadays, you pretty much know what youre going to get when you read Commentary, and that is a loss to the Jewish community. I would add to Balints observation that this dynamic is true of the Jewish community as a whole: There is a loss of tolerance for diversity in our own community. We

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are increasingly quick to prejudge people based on what we think they believe, and we are more prone than ever before to demand that our loyal friends march with us lockstep on a checklist of issues which we determine are the right way and the only way. We say we love diversity. But do we really deserve that reputation? Can we really disagree with each other on issues close to our heart without name calling? If thats the case, no Jew should be called an enemy of Israel or a self-hating Jew because they support J Street. And no Jew should be ostracized or looked down upon because he or she belongs to the Republican Party. The recent debate over whether a mosque should be built in New York near Ground Zero is a good example. Wherever we come down on this issue, I think we can all acknowledge that this issue is complex. You are not an idiot or anti-American if you believe the primary value that needs to be upheld here is that of religious freedom. And, you are not a bigot and a racist if you believe that a mosque should not be built in this particular place at this particular time. The politics of contempt has become all too pervasive across the spectrum, on the left and on the right. The derisive labeling of the other and the crude lumping together of people weve decided are our opponents has stifled real conversation and has put a damper on the truly open exchange of ideas. Ive heard more than one story of friends and family members who have stopped talking to each other over political differences. Diversity begins at home, in our own community, in our own congregation, in our own relationships. Benjy Balints prescription for Commentary is a great model for community, too. We are far more interesting, dynamic, and ethically sensitive when we have not settled into a predictable way of thinking or acting. So, I want to encourage all of us to try this technique. Whenever were in danger of feeling a little too self-righteous, lets get in touch with our inner Larry David. The next time an argument threatens to get heated and personal, lets turn to our partner, our friend, or our neighbor and ask them: Do you respect wood? For the sake of shalom bayit, the time has come for all of us to curb our enthusiasm to step back from our own passion just enough to respect our friends point of view. We dont have to relinquish our deepest convictions. Just a little bit will go a long way to preserving the relationships that are so important to us.

Jewelry is something which can make even an ugly one beautiful. Seriously? I must be missing something here. Is this the best you can cull from the wisdom of the Ladinos (Ladino Lesson, Nov. 19)? I am appalled that something so trite and offensive would appear in our community newspaper. What exactly is the point of this Ladino lesson? Should we look for someone ugly to buy jewelry for? And exactly who is it that is playing God and deciding who is ugly and who is not? How about something to inspire? To uplift? To make us think? This was none of that. sheryl Kipnis 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 december 14. Future deadlines may be found online.

The gender disconnectDaN browN eJewishPhilanthropy.comThe Jewish communal world has a problem. Well, several, but today lets focus on one: The continuing gender gap in North American Jewish organizations. A recently released study, titled Jewish Communal Professionals in North American: A Profile, provides an unprecedented look at more than 2,000 Jewish communal professionals throughout the United States and Canada. Commissioned by The Jewish Communal Service Association and conducted by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York Universitys Wagner Graduate School, the study provides the first in-depth look, across the organizational divide, at who is working in U.S. Jewish communal institutions, their education, responsibilities, training, compensation and more. The results are disturbing especially regarding the continuing gender pay and leadership inequalities that exists across the communal landscape. Women make up around two-thirds of all Jewish communal professionals, yet represent only 12 percent of leadership. They significantly lag behind men in compensation, with an overall gap of $28,000! Adjusting for age, years in the field, level of responsibility, hours worked, and degrees earned, womens salaries still trail mens by about $20,000. Why? Is it because many opt to work for smaller organizations that happen to have smaller budgets? Is it because women are not as strong at the negotiating table? Or men are stronger in marketing themselves? Or is it, plain and simple, gender discrimination are women just not provided the same opportunities? Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America has said, I dont know that weve put enough emphas...