the rabbi’s turn
friday, august 2, 2013 .
“He would probably school me.” — Taylor Halperin, an intern for Sen. Maria Cantwell and big basketball fan, on whether he would take the court withPresident Obama while he’s in the other Washington for the summer. Read about the M.O.T. on page 9.
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Since becoming a rabbi,I have come to believe therereally are ive seasons tothe year. Tere are the typi-cal our: Fall, winter, spring,and summer, but or rabbis,there is an additional seasoncalled “pre-High Holidays.”It is the time o year whenrabbis reect on the messageswe want to give our congre-gants and plan the services inobservance o Rosh Hashanah and YomKippur. As a Jewish educator, I spend thistime preparing to open religious schoolor our almost 600 students, making sureour program is the best it can be.Tis year, my attention is being spenton something much more mundane and,ironically, more stressul. With many school districts beginning at the same timeas Rosh Hashanah, I nd mysel preoc-cupied with what to do about the act my daughter will miss the rst day o her highschool classes. While I know our amily belongs in synagogue, I also am keenly aware she will actually miss an exam beinggiven on the rst day. For many, this doesnot sound like such a big issue, but or my daughter, it is certainly a concern. WhileI understand that legally she cannot bepenalized or missing school due to reli-gious observances, I also understand thereare ways in which she will eel punished.his is but one example o what itmeans to live as Jews in the secular world.Let’s ace it — we don’t live in Israel oreven a city large enough that secular schoolcalendars are aected by the Jewish calen-dar. For many o us, we are the only Jew in our school or oce. We are constantly being asked to balance our Jewish and sec-ular identities, whether at school unc-tions, with social engagements, or at work.Te balancing act can be tricky at times.Te larger problem is how this constantbalancing ofen makes us eel like an out-sider in our own community.I recently overheard a teenage girl tellanother how she does not like wearingher necklace with a Jewish star on it. Sheexplained that wearing it made her look “too Jewish” and how shedidn’t like to set hersel apartrom her peers at school. Formany, being dierent is apositive, but or ar too many,this eeling o being dier-ent is isolating. his isola-tion aects people regardlesso age. Make no mistake —teens are not the only oneswho struggle with this issue.Unortunately, the chal-lenge o nding a balance between theJewish and secular parts o our identity willnot go away. Navigating these challengesas they occur will be an ongoing process.Tere will be times when we eel like theoutsider, but the answer is not to turn away rom our Jewish identity. Rather, we needto turn to our synagogue or chavurah oryouth group, to remind ourselves that wedo belong, that we are not alone. When webelong to and are active in a synagogue,attend religious school or adult learningclasses, take part in Jewish summer camps,belong to Jewish youth groups (regardlesso which one), and are active with orga-nizations such as Hillel, the Jewish Com-munity Center, Jewish Family Service,or Federation, we remind ourselves thatwe are not “the other.” We are, in act,together. By taking part in a vibrant Jewishcommunity, we surround ourselves withother Jews and are invited into a sense o belonging ofen lacking in other areas o our lives. I repeatedly hear students tellme they love coming to religious schoolbecause, while they are the only Jew intheir grade or school, they have commu-nity in our synagogue. Tey eel validated.As a rabbi, Jewish educator, andmother, this “pre-High Holiday” seasonis spent contemplating how importantit is to live as a Jewish American — onewho straddles both the Jewish and secularworlds and one who proudly belongs toboth communities. It is exactly this prideI wish or all Jews to have so when choicesmust be made, it brings pride — not dis-comort. May this New Year bring withit deeper connections within the Jewishcommunity or each o us.He will be able to walk to the placeswhere the storm troopers burned Jewishbooks, past the businesses that were stonedduring Kristallnacht, and the homes romwhich Jewish amilies were evicted, dispos-sessed and then murdered en masse as heopenly questions whether it was all madeup by the Jews or attention, money andpower. He’ll be able to stand where Hitleronce gave speeches about Jews being ratsand say, essentially, the same thing — andpeople will listen.It’s as i nothing has changed at all.
Fom si sv Bm idipch fo J-ih.com fom hi homi Bi.
Hl Thms itrviwr:Mdi whitwshd lt jurlist’s ti-Smitism
On June 1, 2010, the day ater theGaza otilla incident in which nine urk-ish militants were killed afer attackingIsraeli soldiers aboard the Mavi Marmara,amed reporter Helen Tomas didn’t hideher opinions about Israel in a briengwith White House Press Secretary RobertGibbs.“Te initial reaction to the otilla mas-sacre, deliberate massacre, an interna-tional crime, was pitiul. What do youmean you regret something that should beso strongly condemned? And i any othernation in the world [besides Israel] haddone it, we would have been up in arms.What is this ironclad relationship wherea country that deliberately kills people…and boycotts, and we aid and abet the boy-cott?” Tomas asked Gibbs.Little did the public know at the timethat just a ew days beore that press brie-ing, homas had uttered anti-Semiticcomments that would go on to garnerar more attention than what she saidabout the Gaza lotilla. Adam Nese-no, the 17-year-old son o Rabbi Dr.David Neseno who handled the tech-nology-related aspects o his ather’sRabbiLive.com blog, was busy graduatinghigh school. Tat meant a May 27 videointerview that Helen Tomas gave DavidNeseno on the White House lawn — inwhich Tomas said Jews should “get thehell out o Palestine” and “go home, toPoland and Germany, America and every-where else” — would not be posted onlineuntil a week afer it was recorded.homas, who worked 57 years orUnited Press International and a decadeor Hearst Newspapers, died July 20 at age92. She covered every U.S. president romJohn F. Kennedy to Barack Obama, and iscredited with opening the White Housepress corps to women. But all it took wasa roughly 90-second interview to end hercareer in 2010 — Neseno’s video broughtabout her retirement shortly afer it wasposted.Neseno believes that the “rst part”o Tomas’s obituary should be her anti-Semitism, because her “poison inectedeverything she ever wrote.” Yet that wasn’tthe type o Helen Tomas obituary Nese-no saw rom the mainstream media aferher death.“I got to hear people like Mika Brzez-inski o MSNBC say that, ‘Helen Tomasis my role model,’” Neseno said in aninterview with JNS.org. “Tat CBS Newsdecided to say, ‘Well, it was a little contro- versy, she said that Jews should go back toEurope.’ Tey couldn’t even say the wordGermany, because they have to whitewasheverything.”“It’s bothersome to see that the newsreally can’t call an anti-Semite an anti-Semite,” Neseno said.Neseno was alerted to Tomas’s deaththrough anti-Semitic email messages hereceived such as, “Happy now, kike?”“It tells you the type o people that likedHelen Tomas, and basically it’s kind o emblematic o what my lie has been likesince being the reporter on the ront lawno the White House who uncovered ananti-Semite,” Neseno said.Neseno said the media “didn’t know what to do about” Tomas’s commentsbecause “here’s this sweet old lady, andshe’s saying these vile things about Jewsgoing back to Germany.”Over time, some came to understandTomas’s statement that Jews should “getthe hell o Palestine” as reerring to Jewishcommunities located beyond the pre-1967lines, not all o Israel. But Neseno dis-putes that interpretation, explaining thati Tomas was okay with Jews remainingin parts o Israel, she would have said, “Goback to el Aviv.”“She said tell them to ‘get the hell out’and ‘go back to Germany,’” Neseno said.Tomas apologized or her remarksto Neseno shortly afer the interview,saying, “I deeply regret the comments Imade last week regarding the Israelis andthe Palestinians. Tey do not reect my heart-elt belie that peace will come to theMiddle East only when all parties recog-nize the need or mutual respect and toler-ance. May that day come soon.”Yet it wouldn’t be the last time sheuttered anti-Israel and anti-Semitic com-ments. Tomas went on to say that Zion-ists own the White House, Hollywoodand Wall Street in an interview or Play-boy magazine, in addition to similar com-ments in other interviews, Neseno noted.Neseno said the legacy o his 2010interview with Tomas was that it “broughtdown that wall o ‘I’m anti-Israel, not anti-Jewish.’” National legislators, includingU.S. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and SteveChabot (R-OH), took notice and in April2012 wrote a letter to Palestinian Author-ity President Mahmoud Abbas denounc-ing an award the PA gave Tomas.Engel and Chabot also warned Abbasthat the honor or Tomas might hurt U.S.assistance to the PA due to the parameters