Community Briefs

U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq Could HurtIsrael

Middle East expert and former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack told an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) audience that Israel would have to endure an emboldened Arab terrorist culture and other brutal, long-lasting side effects if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq now.

“That would be absolutely the most irresponsible thing we can do,” Pollack said to an audience of about 60 at the ADL’s Oct. 25-26 Fall Weekend Institute in Century City. “If this thing goes south, it’s going to be a disaster for us.”

A research director at The Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East in Washington, D.C., Pollack wrote last fall’s broadly influential book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.”

For Israel, a democratic Iraq would have a lasting effect on the Middle East by becoming the Arab world’s version of postwar Japan. “Before Japan, East Asians had never seen a democracy,” said Pollack, explaining that Japan’s successful mix of Western democracy and Asian values showed South Korea and other East Asian nations that democracy was not so foreign.

A similar merging of Arab values and Western democracy must occur because, Pollack said, when the Arab world currently thinks of democracy, “they think of Britney Spears, sex on TV and hip-hugger jeans.”

“Arab society has constructed an alternative universe,” Pollack said in an interview with The Journal.

Arab universities discourage students from medical, hard science and engineering degrees, pushing them instead into the humanities, Islamic studies and law. However, Islamic studies graduates find themselves unemployable, and their bitterness and poverty are a calling card to anti-Semites and terrorist recruiters.

“The Arab world isn’t creating jobs,” Pollack said, noting that the Arab world needs to create 800,000 new jobs annually but only creates 200,000. “They’re falling behind Asia and Africa — and now China.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

CSUN Gets a Taste of Sukkot

Recently, students at Cal State Northridge had a chance to shake a luvav and etrog and take in a little shade on their way to class. Throughout the week of Oct. 13, CSUN students could escape the heat, grab a piece of fruit and learn about Jewish tradition courtesy of a small on-campus sukkah sponsored by the school’s Hillel center. Focusing on the theme of world peace, the canvas and bamboo dwelling stood proudly by the school’s Student Union along Matador Square. Students and faculty members stopped by between classes to explore the sukkah and view a large collage created by Hillel students, which related to their hopes for peace.

“We figured that since Sukkot is a time of rebirth and harvest, it was a good time to talk about peace and starting new,” said Joy Werner, CSUN’s Hillel Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow, as she manned the sukkah and helped Hillel students put the final touches on the “Sukkah of Peace” collage.

Throughout the week, Hillel organized special events under the sukkah, including a special lunch and a Jamba Juice break. Several non-Jewish students dropped in to ask about the significance of the sukkah and read the display of bright-colored signs explaining the holiday prayers.

“It’s a good way to educate the campus community about Jewish culture,” Werner said. — Sharon Schatz Rosenthal, Education Writer

Persian Parents Learn to Strengthen FamilyUnity

A discussion on the growing religious gulf between Persian parents and children drew more than 1,200 to Beverly Hills High School on Tues., Oct. 21.

Pouran Moghavem, 64, was inspired to organize the event after one of her daughters became observant and cut her connection to the family in 1995. The discussion focused on finding a solution to re-establish family unity, and the audience consisted of concerned parents and some well-known Persian rabbis who sought to defend their positions.

“When we immigrated to the U.S., in order to keep our children away from drugs and immorality, we decided to put them in Jewish schools,” said Esther Naiim, a parent. “But now they have become so religious that they do not consider us kosher enough to sit at our Shabbat table. What kind of Jewish religion is this which has separated our children from us?”

The rabbis at the event said that religion is a human need and religious instruction is of benefit to the families. However, Jewish Persian immigrants, raised with traditional Jewish education in Iran, have found the various branches of American Judaism alienating.

Houman Kashani, a 26-year-old UCLA resident, told The Journal: “Since Persian rabbinical students go to Ashkenazi yeshivas and try to convey their instructions to the Persian younger generation, the parents find them contradictory to the traditional Judaism that they know, and that makes a problematic gap.” — Mojdeh Sionit, Contributing Writer