“I love my work. I loved doing it when I was able to. I had fun doing it.”— Jewish children’s book author Chaya Burstein, who died on Sept. 15, upon receiving an honor from Temple Beth Am. Her obituary is on page 25.
friday, ocTober 12, 2012 .
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akiva keNNy SegaN
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On Sept. 25, Te New York imes pub-lished an op-ed o signicance to Jewseverywhere, including throughout thePuget Sound and Washington State.itled “Te Sin o Sowing Hatred o Islam,” by the new president o the Unionor Reorm Judaism Rabbi Rick Jacobs,it criticized the anti-Islam hate ads now placed around greater New York transitsites. In the ads, Muslims are called “sav-ages” and Israel (and Jews) are presentedas superior.Equally important yet unaddressed by Rabbi Jacobs in his criticism o the cur-rently ashionable hate campaigns target-ing Muslims at large is the impact o thesehate ads on American schoolchildren o all ages and o all aith, race, national andethnic backgrounds, including Jewishschoolchildren and teens.As directed by Pamela Geller, a JewishNew Yorker, the ads tell our studentsit’s acceptable in America today to paintwhole groups o people as “savage.”While many o my proessional Holo-caust-education and educator peers like todecry what they call “moral equivalency”between Holocaust victims with the vic-tims o other genocides past and pres-ent, it is just that moral equivalency that isurgently, even desperately needed.While the Holocaust was indeed a sin-gularly unique historical event, pain andsuering are not relative. And or the vic-tims o other hate crimes and genocides,their pain and suering are no less thanours. For what do we bother to teach aboutthe moral and ethical lessons o the Shoah i not to make it relate to ongoing war crimesand crimes against humanity that continueto cause so much human suering?During the rst 10 years I guest taughtmoral and ethical lessons o the Holo-caust in schools, using art as a univer-sally understood medium o instruction,I showed the cover o a book published inNew York in 1905: “wo Little Savages;Being the Adventures o wo Boys WhoLived as Indians and What Tey Learned.”I oered the image as an example o racialand ethnic stereotyping o the past.Have we learned so little here in theAmerica o religious reedom that 107years aer “wo Little Savages” was pub-lished we now teach our children thatwhole groups o people can saely, withthe blessing o ederal courts, be describedas savages?Let us not orget, too, Hollywood’s longhistory o depicting “savage,” “scalping”and “bloodthirsty” American Indians, andblack Aricans, too. Out o curiosity andas a lie-long movie an, a ew years ago Ichecked out a 1940s “arzan” movie romthe library.Ater having taught and immersedmysel in the Shoah as an artist and edu-cator or many years, I don’t shock easily anymore, but a “arzan” scene where awhite colonialist picks up his rie andshoots a black porter to death or havinggotten tired on the jungle trail set me back in its casual presentation o “normalcy.”O moral equivalency, then and now:Pamela Geller and supporters around theU.S. say Muslims are bloodthirsty, vio-lence-prone and beyond redemption. In the1930s in Nazi Germany and Austria, Jewswere portrayed in signs, grati, posters,beer coasters, educational primers, newspa-pers, movies, and cartoons as “race delers”preying on “Aryan girls and women.” How savage is that?Overweight Jewish men were portrayedas poisonous mushrooms with big noses.Some hold a whip in one hand and coinsin the other: Tey’re money-grubbing andmoney-obsessed brutal taskmasters.A pre-World War II Polish post-card portrays a Jew as a poisonous spiderdevouring Polish towns and cities; a com-parable Jewish spider can be seen in a late19th-century Viennese poster. Tese ste-reotypes continue today by proessionalJew haters and Holocaust deniers.While courts say Geller’s racist hate adsare “ree speech,” I hope the outcry againstthem will be loud and noisy. I not, we willhave come no urther than our segrega-tionist past, which allowed “whites only”bathrooms and drinking ountains, andrestricted the number o Jews who couldattend college, patronize certain businessesand work at certain rms (i at all), andrent or buy homes where they wanted to.Not only can we do better, we must dobetter. Te real and most vulnerable vic-tims o the Islam-hate campaigns are allour children.
Akiva Kenny Segan is an artist and Holocaust,genocide and tolerance educator.
Hw will th Jws vt?
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With the presidential election cam-paign in ull swing, that quadrennial ques-tion arises once more — how will theJews vote? Te majority o American Jewshave been voting Democratic or some 80years, oen overwhelmingly so. Beoreeach national election the Republicans try to break the pattern, and pundits wonderwhether this time it will be dierent. Up tonow it hasn’t.AJC, the nonpartisan Jewish advo-cacy organization that has tracked Jewish voting behavior or more than threedecades, used a new approach this year.Besides its usual survey o a nationalsample o American Jews, it also polledrepresentative samples o Jews in two cru-cial swing states, Florida and Ohio, wherethe Jewish vote could make a dierence ina close election. Te surveys, conducted inSeptember, asked not only about votingpreerences, but also measured PresidentObama’s approval ratings in the Jewishcommunity and gauged Jewish attitudeson the key issues o the day. A separateAJC survey was conducted earlier, duringthe summer, o Russian Jewish voters inmetropolitan New York, containing somedierently worded questions. All surveysare available at www.ajc.org.Te AJC data suggest that nationally,Jews continue to avor the Democrats by a wide margin, 65 percent reporting thatthey will vote or President Obama, 24 per-cent or Governor Romney, and the restundecided. Te support or Obama is con-sistent among all age groups, and Jewishwomen tend to be more pro-Obama thanmen. Ohio Jews split roughly along thesame lines as the national sample, 64-29percent or the president. In the otherswing state, Florida, Obama did evenbetter, attracting 69 percent o the Jewish vote against 25 percent or Romney.In the national and both state surveys,more Jews approve than disapprove o the president’s handling o the economy,health care, national security, U.S.-Israelrelations and other issues, and believe thatthe Democrats are more likely to makethe right decisions about those issuesthan the Republicans. Te great major-ity o respondents say that the economy and healthcare are the most importantissues in deciding whom to support orpresident. Still, more than 90 percent inall three surveys are concerned over theprospect o Iran acquiring nuclear weap-ons. And, reecting deep pessimism overthe situation in the Middle East, the per-centage o Jews who think that prospectsor Arab-Israeli peace have risen in thepast year languished in the single digits inall the surveys.However, there are two Jewish sub-groups that appear to diverge romthe majority-Democratic consensus —Orthodox Jews and Russian Jews. Whilethe Ohio and Florida samples do not con-tain enough Orthodox respondents todraw any conclusions, the national survey shows Romney beating Obama by 54 per-cent to 40 percent among the Ortho-dox. Te edge or the Republican is alsoreected in the president’s high unavor-able ratings in the Orthodox community on each o the issues.Although it was held earlier in the yearand hence includes many more “unde-cided” responses — 41 percent — thanthe other surveys, AJC’s survey o Rus-sian Jewish New Yorkers similarly avoredRomney over Obama, 47 percent to 12percent. Tis was consistent with the lasttwo presidential elections, when a major-ity o Russian Jews also avored the Repub-lican candidates.Barring any October surprise, Jewish voters will in all likelihood give the bulk o their support to the Democrats, as inpresidential elections past. Yet there aresigns that this political tradition mighterode over time. Te Orthodox tendency to maintain high levels o Jewish alia-tion and to have more children than otherAmerican Jews — characteristics clearly evident in the recent demographic survey o the Jews o New York City — portenda ar greater voice or Orthodoxy in theJewish community, and together withthe steady integration o Russian Jewsinto American Jewish lie, may eventu-ally change the political prole o Amer-ican Jewry.
Wendy Rosen is the regional director of the
Seattle ofce of the American Jewish