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A Newsletter on American Jewish – German Relations

dubowdigest@optonline.net

GERMANY EDITION

February 4, 2010

Dear Friends:

It was a busy few weeks in Germany with both Israeli Pres. Peres and Prime
Minister Netanyahu visiting Berlin. I’m assuming that those visits were well
reported on in the German press so I’ve decided to skip over them in this edition.
However, I did cover them in the American Edition. If you’re interested in knowing
what I had to say click www.dubowdigest.typepad.com and find the Feb. 4th
American edition.

The German Consul General in NYC, Horst Frietag, recently held his annual
celebration of German – Jewish cooperation at his apartment. It’s become a
“must attend” for all those interested in the subject. The food was terrific – all
kosher!

It’s cold here but nothing like I hear you are having in Germany. Well, we’re less
than 3 weeks from the beginning of baseball spring training – a sure sign of
warmer weather. As we say in the States, “Hang in!”

On to the news…

IN THIS EDITION

MIDDLE EAST PEACE: “DELAY” IS THE WATCHWORD FOR NOW – There is


pressure on Abbas to come to the table but even if he does, not much is going to
happen.

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AUSCHWITZ PLANS – The editor of BILD gives them to P.M. Netanyahu and
they go on display at Yad Vashem

IMMIGRATION: THE NEXT BIG ISSUE? – Taxes, budget deficits, Afghanistan


and fiscal control are all front and center issues at the moment. Will the 12 or 13
million non-documented people in the U.S. become the next big issue – even for
the Jewish community?

POLITICAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE: IMPLICATIONS FOR JEWISH GROUPS –


The Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions could pour more money
into political campaigns. How will that affect ethnic group “lobbying”?

THE INTEGRATION OF IRANIAN JEWS – The American Jewish community is


made up of Jews from all parts of the world. The Iranian Jews have been here for
about 30 years. How are they doing – especially the children of the immigrants?

THIS & THAT – A few left over items.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE: “DELAY” IS THE WATCHWORD FOR NOW

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Delay is preferable to error” and I think it has
become apparent that another strong attempt on the part of the Obama
Administration to bring about an Israel-Palestinian peace conference would be an
error. Added to the fact that neither party seems ready, willing or able to join in
such an effort at the moment you can, as Laura Rozen in Politico has written,
“Add one other thing to the list of consequences for President Barack Obama of
the Massachusetts Senate race: a diminished ability to take risks in his foreign
policy.

“Democratic foreign policy observers predict that a weakened domestic political


position will make Obama inclined to be more selective in choosing when and
with whom to engage, focusing on opportunities where he can demonstrate
success over more ambitious but less certain efforts, such as trying to achieve
Middle East peace

“They also predict a more populist president focused more on job creation than
the globe-trotting and triumphal speech-making in Cairo, Istanbul, Prague,
Moscow, Beijing and Ghana that Obama took time for in his first year.

“From his seemingly stillborn efforts to revive Middle East peace talks to his
ambitious arms control agenda, the sense that Obama has been weakened at
home could factor into the calculations of foreign leaders sizing up the president
and determining whether they should risk their own domestic political standing to
accommodate U.S. policy.”

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Given the confluence of Middle East unwillingness and domestic weakness,
there is little doubt that “delay” is the strategy the Obama Administration will use.
The President has 3 more years in his term. A lot can happen in that time and his
current weakness may turn into strength one of these days.

I think very few in the American Jewish community are surprised that nothing
much has happened on the peace front. The current stalemate is not seen as a
great negative except by those politically in the “peace” wing. With the
Palestinians split into two opposing groups and the continued unwillingness of
Hamas to even recognize Israel, why would it be beneficial for Israel to even
enter talks? So delay seems to be the watchword of the moment.

An interesting facet of President’s Obama’s way of doing business is his


willingness to, pretty much, say what is on his mind and then, in his dedication to
transparency, have those thoughts published – in a White House press release
no less. Recently he spoke about the prospects for peace in the Israeli –
Palestinian situation. He remains hopeful. You can read his thoughts by clicking
here. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-and-vice-
president-town-hall-meeting-tampa-florida

AUSCHWITZ PLANS

If one knows anything at all about history, the name “Auschwitz” is one charged
with emotion no matter what background one is from. It is tied to the history of
both Germans and Jews and, indeed, in many ways binds the two groups
together. It is not a term that goes away. It came to the fore again last summer
when during a visit to Germany in August by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann presented a set of original
architectural blueprints of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp to him.
The 15 original plans were discovered in 2008, part of a collection of 29 yellowing
documents found in an abandoned apartment in Berlin. The mass-circulation Bild
German daily bought and published them after their authenticity was verified by
experts at the German Federal Archive.

The drawings are now on display at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial
Center

The drawing are dated between 1941 and 1943 and include plans to expand
Auschwitz 1, the original plans for Birkenau, and sketches of various buildings in
the camps and surrounding areas.

One of the Birkenau plans bears the signature of SS Chief Heinrich


Himmler, as well as the head of the SS building department, Hans
Kammler. Another has the signature of Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolph
Hoess.

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Along with the blueprints, an album of photographs detailing the construction of
Auschwitz will be exhibited for the first time, as well as: an aerial photo of the
camp, taken by the Royal Air Force; the Verba-Wetzler report, written by two
Jewish escapees from the camp in 1944; and quotes from SS men and Jewish
prisoners describing the site and its purposes. A copy of the poem "Death
Fugue," by Paul Celan, will also be displayed.

Historians estimate that the Nazis deported a minimum of 1.3 million people to
the camp between 1940 and 1945. Around 1.1 million of them were murdered
there, one million of them Jews.

When I read about the presentation last summer I was struck by Mr. Diekmann’s
decision to present the drawings to Prime Minister Netanyahu. There were many
other things he could have done with them but I believe he did the absolutely
correct thing knowing that they would probably be on display in Israel perhaps
permanently. I’m glad they’re at Yad Vashem and I credit Mr. Diekmann with a
great deal of courage and sensitivity.

And, since I’m on the subject of the Holocaust…

IMMIGRATION: THE NEXT BIG ISSUE?

With health care stuck in the Congress and Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! the item most
talked about in Pres. Obama’s State of the Union speech, the subject of
immigration reform seems to be on the back burner. However, for the Latino
community in the U.S. with roughly 12 million undocumented “aliens” (nobody
likes that term) who are mostly from Spanish speaking countries, it is the next big
issue.

To get anything done as far as national legislation is concerned, in almost all


cases a “coalition” must be built. The U.S. is a country of “groups” including
ethnic groups. They are made up of people who vote and are politically important
so, when it comes to getting legislation passed – they’re vital!

The Forward recently ran an article which noted that both the Jewish and the
Latino communities are gearing up for a Washington battle to push for reform on
the issue.

According to Nathan Guttman in the Forward, “The Jewish-Latino alliance on


immigration issues builds on the heritage and experience of the Jewish
community and on the enthusiasm and urgent needs of the Hispanic community,
which has a strong interest in issues of family unification and the status of the
some 12 million illegal immigrants, most of them from Latin America.

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“But Jewish activists also see the joint work as an opening for cooperation with
the Hispanic community on other issues, such as Israel.

‘“If we want to engage with the Latino community on issues that are of concern
for us, including Israel, we need to engage on issues that bother their
community,” said Gideon Aronoff, president and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant
Aid Society. “We want to create growing bonds with the Latino community, and
we cannot create these bonds if we are indifferent to the issues that are of
concern to them.’

“Jewish communal support for immigration reform is organized around several


principles, including the need for a path to legalization for illegal immigrants; a
mechanism for dealing with future immigration waves; speeding up work on
family unification; integrating new immigrants into American society; and finding,
as Jewish immigration advocates put it, an “effective and humane” way of
enforcing immigration laws and border control.

“’We are working on immigration, because it is the right thing to do, because it is
part of our values,’ said the AJC’s (Richard Foltin). ‘But the dialogue also creates
better understanding for the needs of our community.’”

It is not clear whether the rank and file members of the Jewish community see
this issue as critical as it does not affect them directly. However, the national
Jewish organizations see it as important and, therefore, I expect that they will be
vocal during what is surely to be a terrific battle in Washington.

You can read the entire article by clicking here.


http://www.forward.com/articles/124478/

POLITICAL CAMPAIGN FINANCE: IMPLICATIONS FOR JEWISH GROUPS

According to the JTA, “Last week, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling upended a ban of
more than a century on direct corporate involvement in elections. Politics
watchers are still trying to understand the implications of the 5-4 ruling by the
court's conservative majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

“The decision could have a profound effect on how Jewish groups operate in the
public sphere.

“Most pro-Israel and Jewish civil liberties groups still operate under the tax code
as 501(c)3 organizations -- religious, educational and charitable groups. This
classification allows donors to write off contributions as a tax deduction but bans
direct participation in the political process.

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“Groups with this classification are limited to pronouncements on issues and
ideas: They may, for instance, speak generally about care for the environment or
about energy conservations, but they cannot endorse or oppose specific
candidates. Last week’s Supreme Court ruling opens the way for corporations to
directly attack candidates.

‘The question for 501(c)3 groups is whether it becomes worthwhile to forego the
tax exemption to enter the political fray more forcefully. They could do so as
501(c)4 organizations -- the classification for lobbying groups.

“Some major pro-Israel groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee, already have 501(c)4 status. Under the new ruling, they now have
the freedom to weigh in on political battles; the question is whether it’s in their
best interests to do so.

A small explanation – 501 (c) 3 and 501 (c) 4 refer to paragraphs in the tax code
and cover which contributions are tax-deductible and which are not. AJC is a 501
(c ) 3 so it cannot directly support candidates or contribute to them financially so
gifts to the organization are tax deductible.

It is too early for the implications of the new ruling to come into focus. But it is
clear that corporations and unions are now free to pump funds into campaigns
and there is little doubt that they will have more impact than they have had for the
last 100 years – not that their indirect impact has been small. I believe that
groups such as AJC have such as important role to play in American political life
that they will remain vital no matter what else happens.

The JTA article spells out many more of the possibilities and problems the Court
decision presents. To read it, click here.
http://jta.org/news/article/2010/01/26/1010338/campaign-finance-decision-poses-
questions-for-jewish-influence

THE INTEGRATION OF IRANIAN JEWS

The Jewish community in the United States has a long history of strengthening
itself by welcoming (not always with such open arms however) Jews being
oppressed elsewhere. After an initial period of getting used to a new world and a
new culture, they usually settle in, become useful citizens, and in a generation
their children become “as American as apple pie” flavored by the ethnicity of their
parents. A week ago The Jewish Week ran an article about the integration of
Iranian Jews who started to flock to the U.S. in the 1970’s. Excerpts from the
article follow.

“’During the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the years that followed, two-thirds of

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Iran’s Jewish community of approximately 80,000 fled what had become an
Islamic theocracy. They escaped en masse to Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.
and the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey & Connecticut), as well as to Italy,’
explained Daniel Tsadik, assistant professor of Sephardic and Iranian studies at
Yeshiva University.

“The Los Angeles area remains the largest hub for Iranian Jewry, even boasting
a Persian Jewish mayor of Beverly Hills, Jimmy Delshad. But Iranian Jews are
also a strong presence in the Great Neck (NY) municipality, comprising 30
percent of Kings Point and 21 percent of Great Neck proper, according to
surveys.

“’I like to call Great Neck the Jerusalem of the Persians,’ said Ellie Cohanim, who
was born in Iran but came to America as a young child during the Revolution.
‘You’re talking about a group that’s been here only for 30 years and yet we’ve
accomplished so much,’ said Cohanim, director of Institutional Advancement at
Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, who is highly involved in Great
Neck’s Persian community.

“’Persians are go-getters, they want to succeed, they don’t lay back, they’re high
achievers,’ said Shahram Yaghoubzadeh, president of Iranian American Jewish
Federation of New York. ‘They had to be smarter, they had to be more educated,
they had to be sharper, they had to be more on their feet to succeed in Iran. I
think that’s a trait that stayed with them.’

“’As first-generation Iranian American Jews, we are not only divided between our
dual identities, but more importantly, we stand at a critical position where we face
the inevitable reality of being the ones to take responsibility for preserving 2700
years of ancestry and heritage,’ wrote the New York chapter’s board( SHAI,
Sephardic Heritage Alliance Incorporated ) in a joint e-mail statement to The
Jewish Week. ‘The bigger divide with our parents’ generation is our connection
to the rest of the Jewish community — which is one of the specific goals of our
mission statement — and our parents’ generation who largely remain strictly in
an Iranian Jewish social circle.’

“And so the new generation of successful Persians is striving to retain its


parents’ culture and traditions, by continuing to speak Farsi and throwing those
lavish Shabbat meals. But it is also flying from the Great Neck nest, one eye
trained straight ahead, the other glancing back as it organizes educational
missions to Israel, Israel advocacy events for New York Persians, networking
events and a variety of partnerships with local synagogues and Jewish
organizations.”

To read the entire article click here.


http://www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a17782/News/New_York.html

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THIS & THAT

Indiana University has opened the second Institute for the Study of
Contemporary Anti-Semitism. Yale U. was the first.
http://jta.org/news/article/2010/01/31/1010399/indiana-u-opens-anti-semitism-
institute

A Bar-Ilan University study in Israel interviewed 307 principals, 519 teachers and
2,540 ninth- and 12th-grade students from Israeli religious and non-religious
schools. It was presented Tuesday to the Knesset Education Committee. A
majority of students, 77 percent, said that the Holocaust affects their worldview
and 94 percent said they are committed to preserving its memory. Some 83
percent said they are interested in learning more about the Holocaust.
http://jta.org/news/article/2010/01/27/1010350/study-teaching-holocaust-
common-denominator-in-israel

See you later in the month.

DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted at edubow@optonline.net
Both the American and Germany editions are also posted on line at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com.