JTNews | November 11, 2011
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DESCRIPTIONJTNews | The Voice of Jewish Washington for 11/11/11
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Maurice goes eastSendak exhibit comes to Eastern WashingtonPage 21
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Christians mostly failed to act in response to KristallnachtRafael Medoff JTA World News ServiceWASHINGTON (JTA) Most American Christian leaders strongly condemned the Kristallnacht pogrom that the Nazis carried out against Germanys Jews 73 years ago this week, when hundreds of synagogues were torched, the windows of thousands of Jewish businesses were smashed, 100 Jews were murdered and 30,000 more were dragged off to concentration camps. But the words of condemnation were not always accompanied by calls for action. When it came to advocating steps such as opening Americas doors to Jewish refugees or severing U.S. relations with Nazi Germany, Christian voices too often fell silent. The liberal Catholic publication Commonweal called for suspending Americas immigration quotas in order to admit more refugees. The larger Catholic weekly magazine America, however, took a different line. America headlined its postKristallnacht issue Nazi Crisis. But the two feature stories did not focus on the plight of Hitlers Jewish victims. The first was a report about the mistreatment of nuns by Nazis in Austria. The second article charged that protests by American Jews against the Nazi pogrom were generating a fit of national hysteria intended to prepare us for war with Germany. The issue did include an editorial titled The Refugees and Ourselves, but it was about the grave duty of American Catholics to help European Catholic refugees. Jewish refugees werent even mentioned. An editorial in the leading Protestant magazine Christian Century did address the Jewish refugee problem: It argued that Americas own economic problems necessitated that instead of inviting further complications by relaxing our immigration laws, these laws be maintained or even further tightened. A few months later, refugee advocates proposed legislation to help German Jews that could not be construed as undermining Americas economy. The Wagner-Rogers bill would have admitted 20,000 children too young to compete with American citizens for jobs. Yet even then, Christian Century found a reason to oppose helping the Jews. Admitting Jewish immigrants would only exacerbate Americas Jewish problem, it wrote. One notable Christian response to Kristallnacht was an initiative by the U.S. branch of the Young Womens ChristianX Page 3
community newsJoel Magalnick Editor, JTNews
Seattleites win education prizeOf five young educators recognized nationally by the Covenant Foundation, two hail from Seattle. Robert Beiser, the campus/Jconnect director for the Repair the World social justice organization, based at Hillel at the University of Washington, and Robert Beiser Gilah Kletenik, who grew up in Seattle and now serves as congregational scholar at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and is the first woman to teach Talmud and Judaism at Ramaz Upper School in New York, were given the foundations inaugural Pomegranate Prize, which recognizes educators making a difference while still early in their careers. Our goal with this new prize is to provide the means for these already remarkable educators to further develop their skills, fulfill a dream or two, and have the chance to get to know others who, like themselves, are bringing fresh new ideas and abundant energy to the field of Jewish education, said philanthropist Lester Crown, whose Crown Foundation in conjunction with the Jewish Education Service of North America sponsors the Covenant Foundation. The five recipients will each receive $15,000 over the next three years to further their education. Despite actively working to bring awareness Gilah Kletenik of human rights and environmental issues to give a couple examples on campus and in the local Jewish community at large, Beiser said he hadnt thought of himself as a Jewish educator in the past. Im a community organizer, Im an advocate for social change, Im an activist, he said. But at the bedrock to all those things and the piece that makes it fundamentally Jewish is the context of education. It is not yet clear to Beiser how he plans to use his prize, but he envisions that he will expand his Jewish textual literacy as well as work on building his professional skills.X Page 4
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the rabbis turn
letters to the editortRue AppReciAtion
The legacy of Isaac and IshmaelRabbi olivieR benHaiM Bet Alef Meditative SynagogueA surprising turn of events happens in next weeks Torah portion, Chayei Sarah. We read: Abraham breathed his last and died in good ripe age, old and satisfied, and was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah. (Gen. 25:8-9) What are Isaac and Ishmael doing here together? This is the first we hear of them since each of their traumatic experiences at the hand of their father. Some 73 years earlier as far as Ishmael is concerned Abraham attempted to kill him by casting him and his mother out to die in the wilderness. He and his father had remained estranged ever since. The same holds true for Isaac after the Akedah, his binding and near sacrifice. Despite the fact that an angel intervened in the last moment to stay Abrahams hand, Isaac saw that his father was ready and willing to sacrifice him. Arguably, from Isaacs perspective the angelic intervention didnt make a difference. Even though the blade of the sacrificial knife never touches him, it may as well have, as their father-son relationship was severed for good. Isaac does not come down from Mount Moriah with Abraham; in fact, there is no record of the two ever having contact again. For Isaac and Ishmael to be able to bury their father together suggests that they each had made peace with his past, and both were able to forgive what Abraham had done. Forgiving doesnt mean forgetting what has happened or denying it ever took place; but, rather, we are no longer bound by our past, able to cast off our anger, resentment and upset vis--vis those who have hurt us; and that our pain and suffering no longer define us. In that space, we are able to let go of the stories we have created about these events and free ourselves from their burden on our lives. This possibility of forgiveness is the model of what Isaac and Ishmaels offering could represent. The two half-brothers, wounded by the same source, pitted against each other by the circumstances of their lives, show here a willingness to rise above their personal stories and support one another even as they literally lay to rest the person who represents the source of their pain. Can we, Jews and Muslims alike inheritors of Isaac and Ishmaels legacy learn from their example? Just days before Rosh Hashanah, I tuned in to watch Abbas and Netanyahu address the United Nations. As Abbas spoke I was hopeful that he would extend an olive branch toward Israel; that he would at least hint at recognizing Israels right to exist as a sovereign Jewish state alongside a future Palestinian state. He did not. Instead, he retold the old party-line narrative accusing Israel of being led by a brutal apartheid regime whose goal is to oppress the Palestinians and rob them of their homeland. Perhaps Netanyahu would rise above the rhetoric of the status quo? I hoped he would take the high road and commit to ordering a freeze of all West Bank settlements, dismantle illegal ones, and put a halt to any construction in East Jerusalem as a gesture of good will and a serious commitment to peace. But he did not. He, too, redrew the same old caricature that depicts all Palestinians as unrepentant terrorists hell-bent on the total destruction of Israel. Each side is deeply stuck, bound to a path of destruction in the self-righteous name of their own exclusive narrative. The cost to both people is impossibly high. To be sure, such rhetoric will lead not only to other destruction, but just as surely to self-destruction; as to remain enmeshed in these intransigent stories perpetuates the cycle of misery and collective nightmare, endless cycle of violence and deaths that they and we co-create. One of my favorite philosophers, Ken Wilber, asserts: As a general rule, no one is smart enough to be wrong 100 percent of the time. Can we, then, leave room for the other to be wrong only 99 percent of the time? Because in this 1 percent lies a world of possibilities. By allowing that 1 percent we open a door to hearing a different perspective, we start with the assumption that our truth is not absolute truth but, rather, that there exist many relative truths; that there is no given reality but only perspectives on that reality. By moving out of our entrenched positions we not only become better able to see or hear the others position, but also better able to see our own self and our own stories objectively. Perhaps it is time as Isaac and Ishmael bury Abraham for us, for Israelis and Palestinians, to reframe our stories about the past and stop pretending that these old narratives must define our future. This is not to deny the violence, deaths, and deep wounds that each side has inflicted upon the other in the many decades of this conflict. No what happened, happened. But we can let go of the
I congratulate Rabbi Kinberg on her insightful column (We need to let the world know how we really feel about Israel, Oct. 28). She is correct to observe that a millennia-long connection to the land of Israel, and contemporary caring about the future of the Jewish State, are key themes that unite Jews everywhere in the world. Whatever ones political position, as Jews, we share these connections to the land, the state, and the people of Israel. Israel is by no means perfect, but its the only Jewish state we have. Thank you, Rabbi Kinberg, for your support and love for Israel, and for bringing the community together around this love and support. nevet Basker Bellevue
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 november 15. Future deadlines may be found online.
stories that each side has created about it. A real healing process has the possibility of success not when either side expects the other to recognize the totality of its story any longer, but when each is able to shift its perspective slightly and acknowledge the truth of just one aspect, a sliver that 1 percent of the others narrative. Indeed, this is not only the work of a countrys leaders; it must begin with each of us. What are the beliefs, the positions we are wedded to in our own lives? What are the stories we are bound to that are reflected by the resentments, upsets, and anger we experience when these stories are
challenged? What is it we know ourselves to be so right about that we are unable to hear a different point of view? We too must become aware of our entrenched attachment to our stories, to question our assumptions, and gently open ourselves to hear different perspectives. Isaac and Ishmael were able to forgive. They came to recognize that the historical circumstances of their lives did not have to determine their future. For the democratic values that Israel holds dear, and all peoples in the Middle East, I pray that we, too, will awaken to this recognition.
W KrISTallnaChT Page 2
Association. Less than two weeks after the pogrom, the YWCA established a Committee on Refugees, which undertook information campaigns aimed at persuading the public that refugees were loyal and hardworking. Unfortunately, the YWCAs national board soon lost interest in the project and declined to fund it. According to Professor Haim Genizi, the American Jewish Committee ended up providing much of the committees budget. Christian Scientists, although small in number, had the opportunity to exercise influence through their mass-circulation newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor. But true to their churchs emphasis on the potential of prayer to heal all ills, the Monitors editors argued that in response to Kristallnacht, prayer...will do more than any amount of ordinary protests to heal the hate released in the last few days and to end injustices and excesses practiced in the name of anti-Semitism. The Monitor did acknowledge that finding havens for [the] refugees was a necessity, but refrained from suggesting that America should serve as one of those havens. One of the few consistently strong Christian voices in the aftermath of
Kristallnacht was that of U.S. Sen. William King of Utah, a former missionary who was arguably the most prominent Mormon in America at the time. While President Roosevelt only recalled the U.S. ambassador from Germany temporarily for consultations, Senator King urged the administration to completely break off U.S. diplomatic relations with Hitler. While FDR said that liberalization of Americas immigration quotas was not in contemplation, King introduced legislation to open Alaska to Jewish refugees. Sadly, Senator Kings initiatives attracted almost no support from Americas churches. The response of most Christian leaders to Kristallnacht, like the response of the Roosevelt administration and most of the American public, was, in the words of Professor Henry Feingold, no more than a strong spectator sympathy for the underdog.Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which focuses on issues related to Americas response to the Holocaust. The material in this article is based on the Wyman Institutes ongoing research project on American Christian responses to the Holocaust.
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