Blogs: The Yudelson Files
“I don’t think it’s possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians in public negotiations. I believe strongly in secret back channels,” he said, because the constraints on both Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “are such that they cannot negotiate openly.”
“It’s very much like in the case of Shalit, a question of political will,” said Baskin, who met privately with Abbas this week and believes the Palestinian leader “has decided on peace with Israel.
There’s no doubt in my mind that it is possible to reach an agreement.”
However, “I don’t think Netanyahu has reconciled himself with the price he has to pay. The most difficult issue is not Jerusalem and the refugees, it’s real estate. The Palestnians are making a mistake that they’re not negotiating, but I understand their position because I don’t think Israel is sincere about negotiating,” he said.
Baskin said that the divisions between Hamas and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah should not be a reason to avoid negotiations.
“Hamas has agreed that Abbas is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations,” Baskin said. “They have agreed that if Abbas were to reach an agreement, it would come to a referendum. They do not oppose talks; they think it’s a waste of time. So this whole issue of whether or not [Abbas] can negotiate an agreement — put it to a test. See what happens."
While researching the three recent non-Bergen County sprees of crimes targeting Jews or featuring anti-Semitic graffiti – two of which turned out to be committed by Jews, with the other being investigated as insurance fraud -- I came across some rather hysterical reporting of the incidents.
Blogger Pamela Geller, for example, put the headline "Kristallnacht comes to America" on her report of car tourchings in Brooklyn -- fires that police now believe were set by the car owners to collect insurance money.
Here's her commentary:
"Welcome to America under siege by the leftists and Islamic supremacists."And here's how the author of Israel Survival Updates commented on "Kristallnacht In New Jersey" -- the smashing of store windows in Highland Park:
Tool up. That means go get some evil scary-looking guns, learn how to safely handle and use them and get ready, because “it can’t happen here” is happening here.I'm not going to try to dissuade people from their paranoia. But it is worth noting that equating smashed windows with Kristallnacht is missing the point of what took place in Nazi Germany.
The problem with Kristallanact was not that hooligans smashed windows. It was the power of the state was smashing windows and burning synagogues, and ordering the firefighters not to put out the blazes.
By contrast, look at how authorities responded to the recent apparently anti-Semitic crimes.
First of all, they were all investigated. The perpetrators were actively sought. And it was not only a police concern.
In Bergen County, elected officials stood with the prosecutor's office in denouncing the crimes and calling for their investigation.
There was no question that the authorities totally opposed attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.
Contrast this with the reports from Berlin in 1935, which I happen to be reading about in Dara Horn's excellent “Kindle Single,” The Rescuer. Three years before Kristallnacht, and Storm Troopers were with impunity entering pubs and stabbing Jews and leading organized mobs who pulled Jews from their cars in Berlin and beat them to death. Hate wasn't a crime in Nazi Germany; it was a justification that made crimes legal.
But today, in New Jersey, a firebomb thrown at a synagogue isn't a reminder that Jewish life and property is up for grabs; it's an occasion for congressmen and nuns and Christian and Muslim clergy to join in solidarity with the Jewish community and sing Hebrew hymns.
That didn't happen after Kristallnacht.
That should be the real lesson of the attacks in Bergen County, even if they turn out to be committed by an avowed anti-Semite: It's not 1938. As Jews, we have far more friends in American than we do enemies.
There's one unanswerable question about the recent incidents whose Jewish perpetrators have been caught.
What is it that made two disturbed Jewish individuals – one in New Jersey, one in New York – act out their madness and anger and frustration through anti-Semitic slogans and actions?
Is our community's paranoia making our mentally disturbed members crazier?
Something to think about.
As it happens, back in 1951 -- the year that Jewish Book Week was upgraded to Jewish Book Month, and our cover art was commissioned by the Jewish Book Council of America -- science fiction writer Isaac Asimov published a very short story which predicted the reign of the Kindle and the computerized classroom.
Entitled "The Fun They Had," it takes only a minute to read. Here's the beginning:
Margie even wrote about it that night in her diary. On the page headed May 17, 2157, she wrote, "Today, Tommy found a real book!"It's hard not to imagine some version of the computerized classroom succeeding some day, and books belonging only to grandparents -- and that Kindle future is more likely to happen in 2057 than in 2157. I suspect that my grandchildren will read some of their Asimov on a screen -- and some in my dusty paper copies. But they won't understand what's science fiction about this story.
It was a very old book. Margie's grandfather once said that when he was a little boy his grandfather told him that there was a time when all stories were printed on paper.
They turned the pages, which were yellow and crinkly, and it was awfully funny to read words that stood still instead of moving the way they were supposed to--on a screen, you know. And then, when they turned back to the page before, it had the same words on it that it had had when they read it the first time.
"Gee," said Tommy, "what a waste. When you're through with the book, you just throw it away, I guess."
My questions [with translations added to my original yeshivish queries]:
Is yelling "prutza" [slut] and "shiksa" at fourth graders Torah-appropriate behavior?
Does it fall under the issur of ona'at dvarim [prohibition against oppressing through words], or do we not expand on the issur [prohibition] as expounded in [the Talmudic tractate of] Baba Metzia?
Have the gedolim [charedi rabbinic leadersihp] condemned the behavior?
Does the principle of shtika k'hoda'ah [silence equals assent] apply to the silence of the haredi rabanim of Beith Shemesh regarding this behavior? If not, why not?
Can we assume that the actions of a community for whom toraso umnaso [their profession is Torah] accord with Torah? If not, wouldn't that be an argument in favor of the Hirschian principal of Torah im Derech eretz [combining Torah study with secular studies and work]?
Would it be inappropriate for Israel to draft haredim who commit public mischief such as throwing stones at ambulances or harrassing school girls?
Yelling of that sort against anyone of any age is inappropriate behavior.
Although I am not a posek (religious decisor), insulting another person would certainly seem to fall squarely within the definition of ona'at devarim.
You'd have to speak with someone connected to the Gedolim in Israel to find out whether any statements, public or private, have been made by them about the unfortunate happenings.
While, as above, I have no direct knowledge of the happenings or any rabbinic reaction to them, I do not believe that a decision to not condemn behavior necessarily implies tolerance of said behavior.
While I personally consider myself a Hirschian, I don't judge any community by the misbehavior of individuals belonging to it -- and certainly would not consider such misbehavior to characterize an indictment of a time-honored approach to living Jewishly.
I don't think that indenturing hooligans into army service is an appropriate way of guiding them to living responsibly.
What do you think?
And a double thumbs up for its Come Home for the Holidays initiative, which offers free High Holiday tickets to young adults who grew up in the Conservative movement. It's great to see Conservative Judaism taking outreach seriously. (Next week, we'll be reporting on EZ-Key, a similar program out of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey).
But a thumbs down for their gratuitous use of Hebrew jargon.
Conservative kehillot from all across the world are offering Free High Holiday Tickets and/or Home Hospitality to alumni of conservative movement programs!
Click here to find a participating kehillah near you. Don't forget to check the list often, more kehillot sign up every day.
That's Hebrew for communities.
If you've been paying attention to the ins-and-outs of the United Synagogue recently -- and why would you? -- you'll recall that the United Synagogue, the umbrella group for Conservative congregations, felt they had to respond to the challenge of "indie minyanim," where young adults gather to worship without a building fund or rabbi, by offering to serve minyans as well as congregations.
It's not at all clear that any of these minyans -- many of which are attended and led by graduates of the Conservative movements schools and camps -- have volunteered to hook up with the United Synagogue and start paying due. But on the off chance that they might, the United Synagogue decided that it would on longer deal with "congregations," but rather the perhaps-more-inclusive Hebrew term kehilot.
Look: I love the Hebrew language as much as the next guy, if the next guy has tapes of Hebrew versions of Bob Dylan and Tom Lehrer in his car. But if you want to draw people into the synagogue, you need to remember: Hebrew is an obstacle. It's bad enough that services are in a foreign language; does your web site have to be too?
It's not like kehilah and kehiloth are words used in general conversation, like the colloquial Yiddish "shul." It's hard to think of a context in a Solomon Schechter day school or a Camp Ramah where one might want to teach the word "kehillah." But if a teacher wanted to teach that particular word, they could, ; part of the fun of Jewish education is that you have a temporarily captive audience who has to temporarily memorize the words you quiz them on.
Outreach workers don't have that luxury. They're marketers. They have to bring people in to Judaism, and that means meeting them as much as possible where they are. Aish Hatorah and Chabad understand that. It's too bad that Conservative Judaism still doesn't.