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San Diego Jewish Film Festival preview: ‘The Jazz Baroness’

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

By Gail Feinstein Forman

LA JOLLA,  California–The Jazz Baroness presents a memorable portrait of a black sheep of the Jewish Rothschild family, Pannonica de Koenigswater Rothschild. Brought up in the world of British wealth and privilege and married to a handsome baron, she was used to high society life.

But it was her sojourn into the 1940’s-1950’s world of black American jazz where she gained her notoriety. She became benefactor to such jazz greats as Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk, both who took up residence in her home. “Nica,” as she was known, paid their bills, took the rap when they were busted for marijuana, and chauffeured them to jazz gigs making sure they were not slighted because they were black.

Pannonica’s grandniece, filmmaker Hannah Rothschild, came across Pannonica’s name while searching her family history. Intrigued by what little she could learn from the Rothschild’s themselves, Hannah went on a ten-year search to find out as much as possible about this iconoclast from the rich and famous who followed her passion for jazz and the men who created it.

Pannonica and her husband had lived in New York off and on from the late 1930’s when her husband was in the French diplomatic service.  This allowed Pannonica the opportunity to frequent the many jazz clubs throughout the city. Her brother, an amateur musician, first introduced her to jazz and she embraced it with a passion.

Through her research, Hannah uncovered a taped interview of Pannonica discussing her interest in jazz. In the interview, Pannonica describes how she fell under the influence of Thelonius Monk, the jazz great with whom she had a long-term love affair.

In the tape, Nica recounts that when she was on her way back from New York to Mexico where her husband was a diplomatic mission, she stopped at a friend’s house along the way to the airport. The friend asked her if she had ever heard “Round Midnight,” the classic jazz composition by Theolonius Monk.

Nica said “Well, I’d never even heard of Thelonius then. I must have played it twenty times in a row and then more. I missed my plane and never went home.”

It was two years before she actually got the chance to hear Monk in person. She heard he was playing in Paris, so Nica took a plane to Paris to be there for his first performance. They met each other backstage and hit it off right away. Nica said, “We hung out for a week. We had a ball!” Infatuated by Monk, she rented the hall he was playing so as not to miss a performance.

The meeting with Monk changed Nica’s life. First she had fallen in love with the music, and then she fell in love with the man.

She took up residence in New York and acted as patron, confidante, and manager through his erratic life, entailing severe bouts of depression and drugs.

Nica’s bohemian life scandalized the Rothschild family and she paid a high personal price. In 1951, after Charlie Parker was found dead on Nica’s sofa, her husband divorced her, and she lost custody of her three youngest children-she had five- for several years.

Though Monk was married, he and Pannoninica shared an intimacy, which may or may not have been sexual. For over twenty-five years, their lives were intertwined and inseparable. In a sense, she acted as a surrogate wife.

Black and white footage of them together has a haunting, grainy quality to it, ghost-like anomalies in the world of racial discrimination; Pannonica, the white heiress of a wealthy family dynasty and Monk, the poor black kid from a southern family of tenant farmers- standing together as a contrast to the color-conscious world of the time.

Pannonica’s sister, the Duchess of Devonshire, noted in the film that the Rothschild children were brought up in an isolated and protected environment. They were schooled by private tutors and never went to school with other children. Most of their recreation activities took place on Rothschild grounds such as their in-home museums and elaborate gardens.

Also, Pannonica learned firsthand that “priviledge has no protection,”as Pannonica’s   husband lost all the members of his extended family to the Holocaust, as did Pannonica’s mother. In addition, Pannonica’s father suffered from mental illness and committed suicide at age forty, an event that had a great impact on her life.

Perhaps, Rothschild suggests, the melancholy restraints of Monk’s music resonated to the isolation and loss and Nica felt in her own life. The jazzmen Pannonica nurtured gave her life purpose. Pannonica set up a protected environment for them, and they in turn offered love, admiration, and a sense of renewal.

She was a fixture at the jazz clubs, and various jazz musicians dedicated over twenty jazz compositions to her at the time, including Monk’s “Pannonica.”

Rothschild doesn’t falter in telling the long history of Thelonius’s frequent and harrowing bouts with severe depression and his gradual mental decline. He spent the last ten years of his life living in Pannonica’s home and was unable to perform for long stretches of time

At times, The Jazz Baroness meanders aimlessly across time and seems to lack focus. However, jazz aficionados will relish the footage of Monk and his Quartet borrowed from the documentary Straight, No Chasers, and also the glimpse of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker playing together.

Affecting interviews with Sonny Rollins, Clint Eastwood, and Thelonius’ son, Thelonius Jr., help Rothschild fill in the gaps about Monk’s life and music, the “man who helped you see the music in the music.”

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival will present The Jazz Baroness  at AMC La Jolla at 5:00 PM, Thursday, February 18

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Forman is a freelance writer based in San Diego

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Adventures in San Diego Jewish History, April 2, 1954; Part I

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Compiled by Gail Umeham 
An Open Letter
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

For the purpose of attempting to amicably resolve a disagreement which has been current in our community for some time, and which originally arose as a result of controversial views expressed by myself and Rabbi Monroe Levens some time ago in the Southwestern Jewish Press.  I recently wrote to Rabbi Levens and stated, firstly, that I took full personal responsibility for my publicly expressed views; and, secondly, that I should welcome an opportunity to take any action within good conscience that might further the objective of communal harmony.

Upon receipt of my letter, Rabbi Levens was good enough to call upon me and to engage in a full and open discussion of the entire matter.  Rabbi Levens has given me to understand that certain of his views as expressed were not to be interpreted as casting aspersion upon any of our communal leaders, and, based upon the Rabbi’s statement to this effect, I am most amenable to the retraction of any previous expression of mine to the effect that such aspersions had been cast, and trust that this letter may constitute such a retraction, and may serve as a final settlement of the situation so that Rabbi Levens, as well as myself and all those interested in communal progress may once again devote all of our efforts toward that end.

Victor Schulman

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Fund Workers Swing Into Action As Drive Opens
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

Hundreds of United Jewish Fund workers swung into action this week on a wide area ranging from Oceanside to San Ysidro, at the 1954 Combined Jewish Appeal opened its drive for funds to carry on its life-saving and life-building work in the United States, San Diego, Israel and overseas.

Tremendous impetus according to Sol Price and Seymour Rabin, has been given to the Drive by the successful Women’s Division meeting last Wednesday at which civic and communal leaders gathered on behalf of the Appeal.

Sparked by the enthusiasm and dedication of the chairman and co-chairman, workers of the Men’s Division met last Sunday to receive their assignments at a breakfast at Bohemian Bakery.

On other fronts the campaign took on added speed by appointment to leadership positions of outstanding Jewish workers in the community.  Those named by Price and Rabin are Samuel A. Sussman and Ben Carnot, Chairmen of the La Jolla-Pacific Beach area; Irving Sonnabaum, Chairman of the Coronado section, assisted by Lewis Kipperman, co-chairman, with a team of Arthur L. Cohen, Mrs. Milton Silverman, Colonel Merrit Adelman and William Penn.

The drive in Oceanside will be sparked by the North County Jewish Community Center group with Jerry Apelby, Chairman, and Harold Simon of Vista, Paul Lott, Jerry Freedman, Mrs. Sol Collen, Phillip Saxe of Vista, Maurice Levy of Carlsbad, Mrs. A. Gardner and Howard Gladstone.  Assisting in the Oceanside campaign are Elmer Glaser and Irwin Sklar, members of the United Jewish Fund Board, and Sam Finkel and Walter Krane, Oceanside merchants.

The South-bay area, including San Ysidro and Chula Vista, will be led by Sam Bennett, while Dr. George Herrmann will be the Chairman for National City.

Price and Rabin reported that two other areas will be organized this week when La Mesa, El Cajon and the Lemon Grove area get under way.

Also announced was the appointment of Alan Mishne and Ronald Greenberg, both active leaders on the San Diego State College campus and members of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, as leaders of the Young People’s Division which will be organized at a meeting of key young people on April 7.

Women’s Division To Hear Outstanding Speaker At El Cortez on Monday, April 5
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

Mrs. Victor Schulman, General Chairman of the Women’s Division of the United Jewish Fund, and her committees are busily engaged in planning a delightful and emotionally stirring afternoon for San Diegans who will attend the $25.00 minimum, luncheon to be held on April 5 in the Don Room of El Cortez at noon.

Miss Jean Damon of Berkeley, a Roman Catholic school teacher from Brussels, Belgium, will be the guest speaker and a heart-warming message from this gracious lady is promised to all who attend.  Miss Damon spoke at the Advanced Gifts luncheon for the Women’s Division on March 23rd and the enthusiastic audience was insistent in their demands that she return to San Diego on April 5th in order that the anticipated larger audience could hear her moving story.

Hostesses for this luncheon include the following women:  Mmes. Edward Baranov, A. J. Bard, Leo Beck, Gabriel Berg, Sam Berger, Louis Bickman, David Block, Alfred Bobrof, Ted Brav, Edward Breitbartd, William Breitbard, Earle Brodie, Sol Brown, George Burnett, William Burnett, William Carter, Sam Cohen, Paul Cudney, I. L. Domnitz, Morris Douglas, Herbert Eber, Harold Elden, Carl Esenoff, Barry Felson, Jim Feurstein,, Jack Goodman, M.D. Goodrich, Herbert Gordon, Sol Gotkin, Jack Horrow, Lewis Kipperman, Harris Lipinsky, William Moss, Max Nelson, Paul Nestor, Al Neumann, Sol Price, Seymour Rabin, Sam Rassin, Abe Ratner, Nate Ratner, Herbert Reder, Joe Richlin, Milton Roberts, John Ruskin, Sanford Sack, Norman Schulman, Victor Schulman, William Schwartz, james Shannon, Henry Silver, Sidney Smith, William Solof, Sam Sosna, Robert Stone, Robert Straus, Ben Urbach, Harry Wax, Alex Wise, George Wixen, Jack Zlotoff, Leonard Zlotoff.

Queens Crowned At Pioneer Women’s Ball
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

Pioneer Women’s Annual Rummage sale is being planned and time and place will be announced soon.  Meanwhile, Chairmen, Goldie Kitaen, Rose Domnitz, Florence Barach and Pauline Press are asking that anyone having usable rummage call the following numbers for prompt pick-up:  AT-2-7029, AT-1-8236, CY-6-2020 or AT-1-5449.

The Queens crowned for originality and beauty at Pioneer Women’s Queen Esther Ball were Adele Cheron representing City of Hope Jrs., and Roberta Wyloge, B’nai B’rith Girls.  We want to thank all those who had a part in making our Ball a great success.

The next regular meeting will be held on Thursday, April 1st at Beth Jacob Center with luncheon served at 12 noon.

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Yo-Ma-Co’s Hold Rummage Sale

Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

Old clothes, household wares, furniture—in fact, anything that has some value is needed by the Yo-Ma-Co Club for their Rummage Sale, May 6, 7, and 8.

The sale is held to raise funds for the Bus to transport children of the Jewish Community Center.  Just call AT-4-2798 and pick-ups will be made.

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New Subscribers

Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

Mrs. Sigmund Blumenfeld, Dan Cheron, G. Lazard, Lillian B. Thomas, Richard Berman, Irving N. Cohen, LeRoy Seckle, Bernard Urbach, Raymond S. Toole, Arthur Shapery, Mrs. Benjamin Baraze.

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AZA Elects
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

AZA installed the following new officers last week:  Stanley Breitbartd, Pres.; Eddie Naiman, V.P.; Stephen Goldfarb, Sec.; Allan Friedman, Treas.; Arthur Pogrell, Parl.; Larry Zlotoff, Sgt. at Arms; Gary Naiman, Asst. Sgt. at Arms.
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Hadassah Gets Set For Regional Conference; Eddie Cantor to be Honored
Southwestern Jewish Press April 2, 1954 Page 1

Mrs. Albert Galston, President of the Southern Pacific Coast Region of Hadassah announces the appointment of Mrs. Leo Hirsch of the San Fernando Valley Chapter of Hadassah as Chairman for the Ninth Annual Conference to be held at the Hotel Del Coronado, on May 9th through May 12th.  The San Diego Chapter will act as hostesses to more than three hundred delegates and guests expected to attend with Mrs. Louis Steinman heading the San Diego Chapter Committee.

Mrs. Hirsch has appointed the following chairmen to assist her:  Mrs. Carl Volk, Santa Monica, Reservations; Mrs. Harold Davidson, Los Angeles, Transportation; Mrs. Myer Silverman, Publicity; Mrs. Joseph Scholl, San Fernando, Secretary; Mrs. Gerald Florence, Beverly Hills, Visual Aids; Miss Sarah Glassman, San Fernando, Printing; and Mrs. Leonard Weisbard, Bulletin.

The Southern Pacific Coast Region of Hadassah comprising fifteen chapters, is made up of California chapters from Santa Barbara to San Diego, and also includes chapters in El Paso, Texas, Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.

Mrs. Robert S. Strauss, local President, is issuing a cordial invitation for all interested friends of Hadassah to mark the Conference dates, May 9, 10, 11 and 12, and attend the opening banquet at which time Mr. Eddie Cantor will be honored by Hadassah.

**

“Adventures in Jewish History” is sponsored by Inland Industries Group LP in memory of long-time San Diego Jewish community leader Marie (Mrs. Gabriel) Berg. Our indexed “Adventures in San Diego Jewish History” series will be a regular feature until we run out of history.

Seacrest Village gala Feb. 6 to recognize local firefighters

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

ENCINITAS, California (Press Release)– The Women’s Auxiliary of Seacrest Village Retirement Communities will hold its 32 nd Annual Gala, “Cirque du Seacrest Masquerade Ball,” on Saturday, February 6, 2010 at the beautiful Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines.

This year’s event will recognize the Encinitas and Poway Fire Departments for their outstanding service to the Seacrest Village residents and staff. Attending the Gala will be the mayor of Encinitas, Dan Dalager, and other city officials.

In addition to recognizing the Encinitas and Poway Fire Departments, honorary co-chairs Esther and Bud Fischer are pleased to bring guests the exciting entertainment of Cirque du Seacrest – a custom cirque show developed specifically for Seacrest Village Retirement Communities. Cirque du Seacrest features an all-star cast of cirque performers comprised of acrobats that travel around the United States as well as local San Diego cirque stars. Superbly choreographed and staged by former Broadway performer Tony Caligagan of Heatwave Productions, the cirque show is an energetic display of strength, beauty and acrobatic feats.

The 25-minute show begins and ends with the powerful sights and sounds of Taiko Drums and features amazing aerial acrobats, breath-taking hand to hand balancing, chair stacking and body contortion. The fun begins during the cocktail reception that includes a jazz trio, special entertainment from the Cirque cast and masquerade favors. The evening also includes a gourmet dinner and dessert as well as candy buffet and coffee bar. Guests can dance the night away to the sounds of Society Beat of San Diego.

Black tie and costumes are optional.

Each year Seacrest Village Retirement Communities serves almost four hundred seniors between the Encinitas and Rancho Bernardo campuses. For over forty years, the Women’s Auxiliary has aided Seacrest Village in its ongoing commitment to provide the highest quality of care in a warm and dignified environment for older adults in our community, regardless of their ability to pay.

For more information please contact Alyssa Hooper at (760) 632-0081 or ahooper@seacrestvillage.org.

SDJA collects over 1,000 boxes of supplies for Haiti

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO (Press Release)On January 24 , San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA) commenced SDJA Cares: Project Haiti, an event to gather supplies for the victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Five days later, the K-12 school had raised over 20 tons of supplies and partnered with international aid organization, Latet, who has over 13 years of disaster relief experience and 22 delegations worldwide.

 Dr. Jeff Davis, SDJA Cares: Project Haiti organizer and school principal, said  “We have been asking specifically for medical supplies because that is what the Haitian people need most at the moment.”

Davis estimates the school has collected $80,000 to $100,000 worth of medical supplies. “We have received everything from IV pumps to breathing apparatuses, but are most in need of simple medical supplies like pain relievers, topical antiseptics and surgical gloves,” continued Davis.

On Monday at 10:30 am, the school began packing and loading over 1,000 boxes onto semi trailers in preparation for delivery to Haiti. Latet, who was in Haiti 36 hours after the earthquake occurred, will then distribute the supplies on the ground to the areas of Haiti most in need.

The most unique aspect of SDJA Cares: Project Haiti is that the school did not collect monetary donations. The school organized a similar event for Katrina victims five years ago and gained valuable experience in the logistics required for disaster relief. “Our experience with Katrina and the fact that SDJA’s curriculum teaches Tikkun Olam, which in Hebrew means repairing the world, provided us with a unique opportunity to teach our students outside of the classroom and help the people of Haiti,” said Davis.

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Preceding provided by San Diego Jewish Academy

David Sigal named CFO of UJF of San Diego

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

SAN DIEGO, California (Press Release) – The United Jewish Federation of San Diego has announced the appointment of David Sigal as the nonprofit organization’s new Chief Financial Officer. The appointment of Sigal, who assumed his post on January 25, concludes a long and comprehensive search.

Most recently Vice President of Finance at USA Federal Credit Union, Sigal has held multiple accounting and finance positions in the manufacturing, high-tech, financial services and non-profit industries. He brings with him expertise in accounting, finance, human resources and facilities. Sigal earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Finance from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  He took and passed the CPA exam in 1994.

 “We are very happy to have Dave join the UJF family.  He has a demonstrated record of success and expertise in his field and brings a fresh and innovative approach to the position,” said Michael Sonduck, UJF’s Chief Operating Officer who led the search for a new CFO.

“As an active member of San Diego’s Jewish community, it is extremely exciting, and personally fulfilling, to be working professionally on behalf of Jewish philanthropy in San Diego County,” explained Sigal. “I look forward to being part of an organization that continues to be there for people in need all over the globe”.

Sigal  resides in Tierrasanta with his wife, Liz and daughter, Rachel.

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Preceding provided by United Jewish Federation

Berlusconi’s plea to Israel to return Golan Heights to Syria not likely to win compliance

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment
By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The front page headline of Ha’aretz is that Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, about to visit Israel, comes with a recommendation that giving up the Golan would add to Israel’s status in international politics.

Italy is a great place to visit. The food and wine are first class, the clothes and shoes well made and attractively displayed, and it is a comfortable place to enjoy scenery, historical landmarks, and cultural variety. The Roman Catholic Church has made the Papacy multicultural, and friendly to Jews. The country has come a long way since World War II, but as arbitrator for Israel’s problems, it is in a huge crowd of semi-informed meddlers.

The secondary headline in Ha’aretz notes that Berlusconi is up to his neck in corruption and sex scandals, and implies that he would be wise to keep his own finances orderly and his trousers fastened.

More than other unresolved disputes, Israel’s attracts the curious and creative. The attention comes partly from Muslim countries’ adoption of the Palestinian cause going back to the 1930s. For these participants, it is a way to excite their own locals to demand justice for fellow Muslims, and to distract them from local shortcomings. Islamic theology and its history of conquest is part of the mix. Israel is only one of the targets. Some of the faithful would return Spain to Muslim control, and extend their rule to Britain, Switzerland, and other places where they have migrated.

Israel has been an issue for the United Nations from its birth, and together with the still-born Palestine is on the organization’s agenda more than places with greater poverty, ill health, and other miseries.

Religion adds to the prominence of Israel and Palestine. The Biblical prophets wandered on the Judean landscape I see from my window. Jesus was born and died within six miles from these fingers, Muslims believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven from a rock only two miles from here, which is that same place that Jews claim Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and a key location in ancient Temples.

Israel required outside help at several stages in its history. The pantheon of those who provided diplomatic recognition and aid with financial, food, and military needs has featured the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, France, Britain, Germany, and the United States. The United States has been the most prominent source of support, and occasionally the only source since Richard Nixon took on the role of Israel’s patron. American presidents, secretaries of state, and special advisers have been the most intense providers of solutions since then. 

Has any outside resolution, suggestion, urging, and pressure helped Israel solve its problems with Palestinians or other Arabs?

Most impressive was Jimmy Carter, not currently among Israel’s warmest friends. His presence and prodding at Camp David may have been what was necessary to bring Israelis and Egyptians to consummate their ground breaking peace agreement. Representatives of the two countries had done most of the work prior to Camp David, and Henry Kissinger may deserve as much credit as Carter on account of what he did during and after the 1973 war, but the pieces may not have come together without Carter.

The most recent and continuing efforts of other American presidents have paled in contrast. Bill Clinton may claim some of the credit for the Israeli-Jordan peace treaty, but that was largely in place and represented by the unsecret visits between Israeli and Jordan leaders going back to the 1940s, which continued despite bouts of serious fighting.

America’s recent contributions to Israel’s dealings with Palestinians and other Arabs have been closer to the accomplishments we can expect from Prime Minister Berlusconi’s visit than to Jimmy Carter’s work at Camp David. Good intentions without doubt. Financial aid always welcome, and more free of corrupt siphoning off in the case of Israel than in the case of Palestine. The status of the United States in the world assures that its advice gets a serious hearing, and some kind of positive response. President Obama’s calls for a total freeze of settlement building, including the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, is the best recent example of a polite hearing following by partial compliance and partial refusal. The same initiative illustrates how outsiders complicate the prospects for peace, and might actually push Israelis and Palestinians further apart. Obama brought the Palestinians to harden their demands, caused Israeli settlers to escalate their building plans, and added to the feelings among Israelis as well as Palestinians that the American administration was hostile and naive.

The countless resolutions coming out of the United Nations and its various commissions may demonstrate the strength of Muslim votes in those councils, but have not moved Palestine closer to statehood or done much to improve the life of Palestinians. The Goldstone report is the latest effort doomed from the start by one-sided commitments and only the most superficial gestures at balance.

UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency provides food, education, housing, and other assistance to Palestinians claiming refugee status in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and elsewhere. It has done at least as much harm as good to the Palestinians’ national cause by inducing their dependence on others.

Mahmoud Abbas, like Yassir Arafat before him, is assured a welcome, hand shake, smile, and photo op with many heads of state, at least on those occasions when Palestinian comments or operations have not proved embarrassing. The public does not know what is said–if anything–in the private meetings between Palestinian, Arab, European, American,  African, or other dignitaries. Whatever it is has not been helpful in any dramatic sense.

The bottom line is that Palestine is still where it has been for a long while, and Gaza noticeably worse. Israel is no longer an impoverished and weak supplicant. It remains a laggard with respect to the richest countries on a number of economic and social indicators, but it does well on those which measure health, higher education, technology, and the quality of its security forces. 

Prime Minister Berlusconi will come and go without moving the Golan Heights from Israel to Syria. Today the flags of Italy are on the lamp posts of Jerusalem. Next week it will be those of some other country, and the week after yet another set of flags. Until the Palestinians can solve their own disputes, and think beyond the dogma promoted by religious and political extremists, those expecting inspiration would be advised to look at the first verse of Ecclesiastes rather than the  comments of important visitors. Among other things, it counsels,

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

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Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University

Growing influence of Haredim changing character of Israel

February 1, 2010 1 comment


By Rabbi Dow Marmur

JERUSALEM– I should perhaps be out on the barricades protesting against the growing haredi domination of Israel. Apart from some disaffected children who grew up in liberal Jewish households, particularly in America, and are “born again,” the high birthrate and culture of early marriage steadily increases the ultra-Orthodox population. The demographic imbalance is becoming something of a threat to the very fabric of Israeli society.

Most haredim contribute little to the state – e.g., by not trying to earn a living in addition to yeshiva study, whether or not they’ve the aptitude for it, and by not serving in the army – but they take much out of the state by living on welfare and getting subsidies for their institutions where anti-Zionism and bigotry are being promoted.

They harass those who don’t share their outlook and lifestyle, both by collective demonstrations that at times go out of hand and individual acts of violence, e.g., burning a mosque or spitting on Christians. It seems that their aggressive impulses, repressed in their education and human relations, erupt in the guise of righteous indignation against one or other act they see as being against Jewish law: hooliganism in the name of God.

One doesn’t have to be a psychoanalyst to recognize their neuroses and inhibitions around sex to understand why so many haredi men have it in for women, be it in domestic abuse, by insisting on segregated buses that put the women at the rear, and of course in constant attempts to make life difficult for non-haredi women who wish to express themselves religiously at the Western Wall and elsewhere.

The range of abuses is very wide. The need to try to stop them, at least symbolically, is obvious. Yet, I find it difficult to get involved in the various campaigns, for I recall what I once heard Ehud Barak say, when he still had a Labor Party to lead, that the issue of religious coercion in Israel is very important but not that urgent.

Urgent domestic issues include the state’s treatment of the poor, of the Arab minority, of refugees and other immigrants, and a host of related issues. Though I understand why Reform and Conservative Jews in the Diaspora should wish to take action against the challenges to their legitimate interests in Israel and protest against successive governments colluding with haredi behavior, I wish the liberals broadened their campaigns to include injustice in general, not only those that affect their adherents.

The late James Parkes, a distinguished British Christian champion of Jewish causes, used to say that prejudice is most effectively challenged by those who aren’t affected by it. According to this understanding, middle-class Diaspora Jews should be particularly concerned with the suffering of the underdog in the Jewish state, precisely because none of their own is personally touched by it. In that broader context, they should, of course, also further their own organizational agenda, but never only that. In this way the important issue of religious coercion could also become more urgent.

 It’s, of course, true that none of us can take on the whole world but at best only our little corner of it, yet in this case to deal effectively with our own corner we may have to take on the whole world, difficult, perhaps even quixotic, though it may be.

Prudent friends who say they know the real world and are sensitive to effective PR that promotes organizational agendas disagree with me. I hope they’re wrong. That’s why I’ve written the above.

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Marmur is rabbi emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto and now divides his time between Canada and Israel