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Stop cheapening the word ‘Holocaust’

August 12, 2010

In an L.A. Times opinion piece in late June called a A Huge Word Made Small, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote about the misuse and overuse of the word “holocaust.” It is being used willy-nilly for any terrible event or injustice or even a sporting even, which then devalues the word and the Shoah.

The continued misuse and trivialization of the word prompted Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and chronicler of the Holocaust, to discontinue using it. “Whatever mishap occurs now, they call it ‘holocaust,'” Wiesel said. “I have seen it myself in television in the country in which I live. A commentator describing the defeat of a sports team, somewhere, called it a ‘holocaust.'”

Wiesel is right. There are many injustices and manifestations of evil in our world, even in our own country, the greatest of democracies. Standing up to them is not only our right but our obligation. But that obligation does not include distorting and demeaning the word that has come to stand for the great evil that was the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was a total eclipse of humanity. It was not about going to the back of the line or eating in a different part of the restaurant or being escorted to the border without recourse. The Holocaust had one purpose: the total annihilation and extinction of a race.

I would expand on Wiesel and Hier’s proposition: We should avoid the casual use of powerful words that have a specific meaning in our history or society. Read more…

Unbelievable ADL Decision

August 2, 2010

The ADL recently said it would not support the establishment of the Cordoba House, an Islamic Center that would include a mosque located 2.5 blocks from Ground Zero in New York. This decision is just awful and shows zero backbone. I am very disappointed.

A friend recently sent an email message  to a group of us who worked as counselors-in-training many years ago at Camp Swig (a Jewish summer camp in California). The message included a link to a video from Jihad Watch against the Cordoba Institute.

Now, one of our members is Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Professor of Medieval Judaism and Islam
at Hebrew Union College. He wrote the book An Introduction to Islam for Jews and others.

Here is Rabbi Firestone’s message to the group responding to the attack on the Cordoba Institute and House:

Dear friends,

The video you received about the Cordova Initiative is outrageous bigotry. It is full of lies and is in essence an antisemitic diatribe, but directed toward a community that is the state-of-the-art scapegoat for this decade. Just substitute Judaism for Islam and Jews for Muslims and you will find the typical antisemitic screed that was broadcast on the radio in Germany and occasionally in the US during the 1930s.

I can’t believe that Jews who have any sagacity will think that he is talking sense. I happen to know something about Islam, and I can assure you that the narrator is an ignorant bigot who doesn’t know what he is talking about. Read more…

Knicks basketball star seeks Jewish roots

July 28, 2010

According to Ha’aretz, New York Knicks basketball power forward Amare Stoudemire is heading to Israel to find his roots. He recently learned that his mother is Jewish and wants to find out more about Israel and Judaism.

According to an Army Radio report, Stoudemire plans to spend time in Israel learning Hebrew, having recently learned he has a Jewish mother. “The holy land. Learn about it,” he wrote, adding “ha’halom sheli” – Hebrew for “this is my dream.”

Beth Israel Judea Joins Bay Area Communities in Novel Tisha B’Av Service

July 16, 2010

On Erev Tisha B’Av, Beth Israel Judea will join five other congregations — Ner Tamid, Beit Simchah-Jewish Recovery Community and West Bay Chavurah of San Francisco, Coastside Torah Circle of Half Moon Bay and Beit Yakov Chavurah of Marin — in a novel way to commemorate this traditional fast day. The evening will begin at 6:30PM at Ner Tamid with a dairy potluck, and then continue with songs and studies that examine the paradox of maintaining the mourning customs in the face of the reality of the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel and the Reunification of Jerusalem.

There’s a story in this week’s J. Weekly about the event that includes an interview with Reb Moshe at Ner Tamid:

Participants will discuss the paradox of maintaining mourning rituals in the face of the reality of the return of Jews to Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem, the site of the destruction some 2,000 years ago.   Read more…

Vox Tablet Interview with Paul Berman

July 13, 2010

Sara Ivry at Vox Tablet, the podcast branch of Tablet Magazine (subtitled, A New Read on Jewish Life), interviewed recently writer Paul Berman, the author of The Flight of the Intellectuals. Berman takes Tariq Ramadan and his liberal apologists to task, pointing out the Fascist connections to Ramadan’s family. He details some of the anti-Semitic myths that Ramadan and his family support, which provide “intellectual” cover for Muslim fundamentalists.

It’s very interesting listening. How can Arabs make peace with Israel when so many of them believe this Nazi-inspired mythology about Israel and Jews? And do liberals in the West understand these beliefs? Or do they look the other way?

Anti-Semitic Myths in Islamic, European Society

July 6, 2010

Edward Rothstein today offered a review in the New York Times of A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad by Robert Wistrich and Trials of the Diaspora by Anthony Julius. It was a good review  that highlighted the continuing evolution of Anti-Semitism.

The issue for today’s world and for productive discussions for peace in Israel (and elsewhere) is the expanding Nazi mythology of Jewish conspiracies that infected the Islamic world in the 1930s and 40s.

This amplifies virulence as well: the Jew, for the anti-Semite, is not just a danger, but the greatest danger exerting the greatest powers. In current paradoxical parlance, the Jew is, in essence, a Nazi. The Jew does not just devour a Christian child’s blood, but the blood of all innocent children, and more completely, the blood of all innocents. Read more…