We can love Jerusalem as Jews without taunting its Muslims

Normally, to quote the famous song, “I love a parade.”

Except when I don’t.

This weekend was the celebration of the 49th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War. The anniversary was accompanied by gleeful — one might even say ecstatic — observances throughout the capital of the Jewish world.

I celebrated as well, in my own way: I discussed the reunification in my Shabbat sermon and offered a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.

In less than a month, I am about to visit Jerusalem for the 45th time. My visits have been for as long as a year or, during emergency missions at times of crisis, just three days.

Jerusalem is the place where my soul, as well as the soul of the Jewish people, actually lives. It is my spiritual home page. It is the place where I feel most at peace, as well as where I feel most engaged and even enraged. There are times in Jerusalem when I find the air too thick with discussion and argument, and I must flee the burdens of Jewish history and visit, say, Tel Aviv.

In celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem, Jewish ultranationalists marched through the city’s Muslim Quarter waving Israeli flags and otherwise bringing their jubilation to a place where, to say the least, it may not have been the most welcome.

When it comes to Israel, I am not a leftist. If anything, I am a centrist, which means that my politics can be a bit wishy-washy, at least for some, or at least boring and temperate.

But this is not about politics. This is not about Jerusalem. This is not even about Israel, or Zionism.

This is about Judaism.

Or, even more sharply, this is about being human.

As I read the reports of the parades through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, I find myself asking the following question: What Jewish value are we celebrating here?

I am not asking: “What moment in modern Jewish and Israeli history are we celebrating?”

I am asking a deeper question, about how one behaves in victory and treats the vanquished.

Like it or not, the Arab residents of Jerusalem “lost.”

Yes, of course, many, if not most of them, would likely prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty than under the authority of any imagined future Palestinian state. And, yes, their municipal services are better than they might have ever imagined.

And, yes, Jordan abused Jewish holy sites, including uprooting gravestones from the Mount of Olives to make room for the InterContinental Hotel on its sacred slopes.

And, yes, the Jewish Quarter had been decimated in the 1948 war, its residents forced to flee.

And, yes, together we should sing “Jerusalem of Gold,” the Naomi Shemer song that became the anthem of Israel’s lightning victory in 1967.

But can we accept these truths and at the same time acknowledge and imagine the psychic wound that Israel’s victory – a victory that I hasten to say was deserved – caused within the souls of its Arab citizens?

Can we Israel lovers ask these questions: What does Judaism have to say about the way we treat the losers in a war? What does Judaism say about the ethics of victory?

The trend is clear:

  • “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.” (Proverbs 24:17)
  • A midrash teaches that when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the angels broke into song. God had to remind them that the miracle included the drowning of Egyptian soldiers in the sea and that it was inappropriate for the celestials to sing, saying “The work of My hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing songs?!”
  • The custom of spilling a drop of wine during the recitation of the plagues during the Passover seder reminds us of the tears that we shed for, and the blood that was spilled by, the innocent Egyptians who suffered during the plagues.

The deliberate march through the Muslim Quarter was: a, impolitic (truly, was this really necessary?); b, dangerous, given the current state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians, and c, un-Jewish. Nowhere in our sacred texts do we find any mitzvah to rub the faces of our “enemies” (excuse me – fellow residents and lovers of Jerusalem) in our victories.

Celebrations of Jerusalem Day could have been limited to the explicitly “Jewish” parts of Jerusalem – the Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall plaza or western Jerusalem. Did we have to march through the Muslim Quarter, as if to echo a fifth-grader and taunt “Nya, nya …”?

Isn’t there a Jewish way of celebrating our victory that does not require that we trample not only on human feelings but on the very sources of Judaism itself?

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida, and the author of numerous books on Jewish thought published by Jewish Lights Publishing and the Jewish Publication Society. His blog is Martini Judaism

Jewish group hired Mexican laborers to protest gay pride parade

An Orthodox Jewish group hired Mexican laborers to protest for them at the gay pride parade in New York.

A reporter for The New York Times witnessed the group of Mexican men picketing for the Jewish Political Action Committee, a Hasidic group based in Brooklyn, at Sunday’s parade in Manhattan.

The hired protesters wore ritual fringes, or tzitzit, and held up signs protesting homosexuality and same-sex marriage, which was upheld by the U.S.  Supreme Court on June 26.

Heshie Freed, a member of the Jewish Political Action Committee, told the Times that the men were hired to fill in for “yeshiva boys” who would normally protest but were kept away because of “what they would see at the parade.”

The group of Mexican men was fenced off from the main parade at Fifth Avenue and 15th Street, and parade-goers repeatedly kissed in front of them.

Later in the day, a fight broke out between a parade-goer and an Orthodox man associated with the group.

“It’s been a lot of confrontation,” Freed told the Times. “Whenever you have emotions, you have a situation.”

Tel Aviv celebrates gay pride

Tel Aviv launched gay pride festivities Friday.

Rainbow flags and balloons festooned the city’s streets and an array of celebrities and politicians addressed the crowd of thousands.

Among the speakers were Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro. Wearing a shirt featuring a rainbow flag, the symbol of the gay community, Shapiro told Ynet that the United States supports the rights of the LGBT community in Israel and worldwide.

A parade culminated with a beach party.

Anti-Israel group setting up battle with plans to rejoin Toronto gay pride parade

The activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid is planning to return to the gay pride parade in Toronto, setting up another battle with Jewish groups and the city.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid withdrew from last year’s Pride Toronto parade after city officials demanded assurances that the group would not take part amid rumblings that funding to the parade could be withdrawn.

“We decided we didn’t want to be the scapegoat for Pride not getting funding from the city, but this year we feel it’s time to go back,” QAIA spokesman Tony Souza told the Toronto Star on May 15. “It so happens that the issue we’re talking about is controversial, but that doesn’t mean that the work that we do, which is basically for justice for people, should not be celebrated.”

The Pride Toronto festival, to be held June 22 to July 1, will publish a list of groups in early June that have registered to participate. If a complaint is filed, which is likely in this case, a panel of legal experts will render a final decision on whether QAIA can march.

Some Toronto officials and Canadian Jewish groups object to QAIA because they say linking Israel to South African-style apartheid is odious and inaccurate. The groups note that Israel is the only Middle East country where homosexuality is tolerated.

Howard English, senior vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said he hopes the Toronto City Council “keeps in mind the hateful nature of QAIA’s messaging and the extent to which it’s divorced from the reality of public opinion among the people of Toronto.”

In March 2011, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told the Canadian Jewish News that “taxpayer dollars should not go toward funding hate speech.”

The city has recommended that the council allocate $1.6 million to the Pride festival.

Queers Against Israel Apartheid quits Toronto parade

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid said it will not participate in the Toronto Pride Parade.

The group, which has raised controversy with its planned participation in the parade, was announced its decision in an April 15 news release.

Mayor Rob Ford said on the same day that the city should withhold the funds until after the parade to ensure that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid does not actually march. Ford has said he would withhold city funding from the parade if the group participates.

Pride Toronto received $123,807 from the city last year.

Toronto’s city manager said in a report that the group’s participation does not violate the city’s anti-discrimination policy, allowing the city to go forward with providing funding for the 2011 event. The city said it would fund the parade as long as all of the groups participating adhered to the city’s anti-discrimination policy.

Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’s withdrawal was presented by the organization as a “challenge” to Ford. The organization said it will hold its own event this week.

“Rob Ford wants to use us as an excuse to cut Pride funding, even though he has always opposed funding the parade, long before we showed up,” Queers Against Israeli Apartheid spokesperson Elle Flanders said in the news release. “By holding our Pride events outside of the parade, we are forcing him to make a choice: Fund Pride or have your real homophobic, right-wing agenda exposed.”

The Canadian Jewish Congress, which has voiced its objection to the organization’s participation, said it was pleased that Queers Against Israeli Apartheid had withdrawn from the parade.

“This is a positive step and reaffirms what Canadian Jewish Congress has been saying all along: There is absolutely no place in the Pride Parade for hateful and discriminatory messages,” said CJC’s CEO, Bernie Farber. “The Pride Parade should be about openness and inclusivity and not about divisive, inflammatory messaging, which serves only to create a hostile and toxic environment.”

City funding OK for parade including Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, says Toronto official

A decision by Toronto’s city manager would permit city funding for the Toronto Pride Parade regardless of the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

The city manager’s report was in response to a motion put forward last year by the City Council to determine whether city funding for the parade should be withdrawn in 2011 because of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’s participation, which some say violates the city’s anti-discrimination policy.

The report found that the group’s participation does not violate the policy. The city’s executive committee is scheduled to consider the report next week, on the second day of Passover.

Pride Toronto received $123,807 from the city last year. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has said he will withhold city funding from the parade if the controversial group marches.

The Canadian Jewish Congress disagreed with the city manager’s conclusion.

“The comparison paints anyone who supports the Jewish State of Israel, namely Jews, as supporters of racist regimes, and thus as racists themselves,” CJC CEO Bernie Farber said. “Using the Criminal Code of Canada and the Ontario Human Rights Code as the basis for this decision is employing too narrow a standard.

“The very definition of discrimination is when you treat one group of people differently from another based on their ethnicity, religion or country of origin. QuAIA are attempting to do just that.”

CJC’s Ontario Region director, Len Rudner, said that “Pride Toronto has created a dispute resolution process, on the recommendation of the Community Advisory Panel, which is precisely the tool through which decisions about QuAIA’s participation in the parade should be made. We believe Pride Toronto has its own values and standards regarding this hateful comparison.

“We hope this dispute resolution process will clarify and uphold those values, and that Pride Toronto will not abandon its core values, which include honoring the past, protecting the future, valuing diversity and respect.”

The Last Nazi Hunter

From Parade.com:

Federal prosecutor Eli M. Rosenbaum, 54, is on the trail of mass murderers, but you won’t see a story like his on CSI. There is no crime scene to study, the witnesses are long dead, and the evidence is scattered worldwide. The director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), Rosenbaum is America’s chief Nazi hunter. Sixty-five years after the end of the Second World War, he is still tracking down its last surviving criminals.

With time finishing the job of the Nuremberg trials—the last judgment on Hitler’s henchmen—t he U.S. government plans to merge the OSI into a broader war-crimes effort. Yet Rosenbaum won’t rest until the last Nazi is brought to justice.

Read the full article at Parade.com

‘Parade’ Takes a Second Turn

When the Donmar Warehouse production of “Parade” opens at the Mark Taper Forum on Oct. 4, starring T.R. Knight, it will mark the musical’s triumphant return to this country since a disastrous original version failed on Broadway more than a decade ago.

High hopes accompanied the opening of the original “Parade” at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center in December 1998. The show tells the story of the 1913 lynching of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank in Georgia, an event that became a media sensation in its time on the level of, say, Michael Jackson’s untimely death or the O.J. Simpson trials. It certainly held promise, with its book by the award-winning Alfred Uhry, of “Driving Miss Daisy” fame — whose great-uncle had owned the pencil factory where Frank worked. Music and lyrics were by the wunderkind Jason Robert Brown, who was then in his 20s, and has gone on to become one of his generation’s most celebrated composers (“13,” “The Last Five Years”). Blending strains of jazz, blues, marches and hymns, the musical told the story of how, in an act of blatant anti-Semitism, Frank was wrongfully accused of raping and murdering a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan; how his sensationalized trial fanned anti-Semitic flames and how he was eventually kidnapped from prison by a posse of masked men and then hanged.

But the Broadway production lasted just 84 performances, in part because the dark material wasn’t de rigueur for the genre: “People didn’t want to take their kids to see the ‘lynching musical,’” Brown told The Journal several years ago. “And if you are going to pay to see the ‘lynching musical,’ then the reviews had better be sensational, and they weren’t — and not always justifiably so.” The negative New York Times review, in particular, virtually closed the show in 1999, Brown said: “‘Parade’ opened and closed in the blink of an eye.”

Despite this, both Brown and Uhry went on to win Tony Awards for their work, and the musical’s memory didn’t die the quick death of many flops. Rob Ashford, the production’s assistant choreographer and dance captain, nurtured the idea of bringing a new version of the musical across the pond. Ashford believed the British would recognize the entertainment value in such somber material; after all, another dark musical revolving around a Southern Jewish family — Tony Kushner’s “Caroline, or Change” — had already fared well in Britain.

And so Ashford took the project to the Donmar Warehouse in London, where he decided to try his hand at directing as well as choreographing. Uhry and Brown came in to make significant revisions: the cast was cut from 35 to 15, with actors playing multiple roles, for example, and Brown added three new songs to the show.

This new “Parade” was well received and opened to good reviews in September 2007.

T.R. Knight, who plays Frank, stars in this United States premiere at the Taper, the actor’s first major project since he announced he was leaving the hit ABC medical drama, “Grey’s Anatomy.” As Dr. George O’Malley on that series, he won an Emmy Award nomination and became a household name — and he endured a very public scandal after a co-star referred to him with a homophobic slur. “Parade” will showcase Knight’s considerable stage experience, which began at age 5 and progressed to leading roles at the prestigious Guthrie Theater in his hometown of Minneapolis. Knight has appeared on Broadway — most notably opposite Patti LuPone in the 2001 revival of “Noises Off,” and he received a Drama Desk Award nomination two years later for his role in “Scattergood” off-Broadway.

In “Parade,” Lara Pulver will reprise her role as Lucille, Frank’s devoted wife, from the Donmar’s London production, but the rest of the cast is new and includes Christian Hoff, who won a 2006 Tony Award for his original role as “Tommy DeVito” in the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys.”

For tickets and information about “Parade,” which begins previews on Sept. 24, opens Oct. 4 and runs through Nov. 15, call (213) 628-2772 or visit centertheatregroup.org. Along with Center Theatre Group and the Anti-Defamation League (which was founded in part as a response to the Frank lynching), The Jewish Journal is co-sponsoring a pre-show event and the performance on Oct. 6, featuring a wine and cheese reception and conversation with Steve Oney, author of “And the Dead Shall Rise” and the chief consultant for the new PBS documentary, “The People v. Leo Frank,” as well as the Hon. Bruce J. Einhorn, past regional board chair and lifetime national commissioner of the ADL. Tickets are $50 for the event and show. For tickets, which are available by phone only, call the RSVP line at (213) 972-7513.

Scenes from the London production of “Parade.”


T.R. Knight rehearses music with director Rob Ashford, left, and composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown, at piano, on the first day of rehearsal for “Parade.” Photo by Craig Schwartz


Transplant Recipient Will Parade Success

Like many native Angelenos, Ilene Feder has never been to the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena. However, the Studio City resident not only will be attending the New Year’s day festivities on Monday, Jan. 2, for the 118th Rose Parade, but will have a vantage point few get to experience: She’ll be riding on a float.

Feder is one of 23 individuals from throughout the country who will ride on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float, representing organ and tissue recipients, living organ donors and donor family members. The float’s theme is “Life Transformed.”

In 1995, Feder, then a 40-year-old international flight attendant, led a healthy, active lifestyle that included skiing, running and scuba diving. Following a routine checkup that showed elevated liver enzyme levels, she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease.

The condition caused a clot in the artery that supplied blood to her liver. Feder underwent surgery to bypass the blockage, but within nine months, it was clear that her liver was shutting down.

When her doctor told her that she would need a liver transplant, “I flipped out,” Feder said. “But the support that I had from the transplant community and from my family saved me. I got heaps and heaps of information that I didn’t get from my doctors.”

Now Feder, who received a donated liver in August 1996, reaches out to others who are awaiting or have received a transplant. She helped start local chapters of the Transplant Recipient International Organization (TRIO) in Westlake Village and Sherman Oaks and became an ambassador for OneLegacy, the transplant network serving the greater Los Angeles area. She has also spoken at various synagogues and organizations to promote organ donor awareness.

Although Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism sanction — and in fact advocate — organ donation, Feder believes that some may retain misconceptions about Judaism’s view.

“People think you need to be buried whole, but it’s a mitzvah to donate an organ,” Feder said. “It makes me feel good that my religion backs my convictions.”

Feder’s transplant has enabled her to resume an active lifestyle. Although she has less stamina than she had before getting sick, she has since traveled to such locales as Israel and China. She’s also attended the Transplant Winter Olympics. And, of course, she’s getting ready for her role on Jan. 2.

“I’m practicing my Princess Di wave,” she said. “I’ve got it down.”

The Rose Parade, with the theme, “It’s Magical,” will take place on Monday, Jan. 2, at 8 a.m. and will air on several local TV stations.

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, the Santa Ana/Tustin group of Hadassah of Long Beach/Orange County will host “Pikuah Nefesh — to Save a Life,” a program discussing the Jewish view of organ and tissue donation. The event will feature Rabbi Ken Millhander of Temple Beth Tikvah in Fullerton; Sharon Zepel, mother of a teenage donor; and organ recipient Lynda Trachtman. For event location and more information, call (714) 545-7162.

I Love a Parade

I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love a parade. The first one I remember attending was as a 10-year-old. My parents took my brother and me to what was then called the “Santa Claus Lane Parade,” which took place just after Thanksgiving Day and made its way down Hollywood Boulevard. There were movie and TV stars as well as the people on horses and floats. I remember it being a lot of fun.

Until last July 14 I had never attended a military parade. You know the kind where soldiers and sailors walk in a procession down a large, wide boulevard. They are typically accompanied by a very awesome display of military firepower, such as tanks and missiles and rockets of all sizes and descriptions. The highlight of a military parade is usually not what is on the ground but rather what files overhead. At the end of the parade one hears from a distance a sound of approaching aircraft and then — to everyone’s amazement and delight — a squad of jets fly over in a precise formation, usually leaving behind a plume of colored smoke. Everyone cheers and yells and then leaves the parade route feeling quite proud of the strength and power of the military branch or country that sponsored the event.

This past July 14, Carol and I were in Paris and attended the Bastille Day parade commemoration of French Independence Day. Hundreds of thousands of people were in attendance lining the Champs Elysees. The weather was perfect and the participants were dressed in all their military finery. Actually, the group that got the largest round of applause didn’t come from the military but rather from the fire department. The event was a lot of fun and I was glad that I took the time to see it.

What do we have in Judaism that comes closest to a military parade? It occurred to me that every Sabbath morning, when we take out the Torah and walk around the sanctuary, we are actually simulating a military parade. No guns, not tanks, no jet planes to impress onlookers. But when the Torah is carried down the aisles of the temple, people of all ages stand at attention and show it the highest form of respect. Many even are eager to touch or even kiss what is contained on that long roll of parchment: commandments and laws and guidelines for living a moral and satisfying life. We also know that the Torah we are viewing is but one in a long history of Torahs that have been carried from one country to another as we Jews have been exiled and escaped from the power of ruthless and evil leaders.

One of the biblical prophets once declared: “Not by might, nor by power — but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” The spirit of God is found in the Torah. We Jews have rarely given over our trust to weapons of mass destruction. For we know that stronger and more powerful weapons are always being created. Egypt was defeated by Assyria and Assyria by Babylonia and Babylonia by the Romans and on and on and on. But we Jews are still alive and our survival can be attributed to the most portable weapon ever created: the Torah. We have carried it from one land to another. Other armies may defeat armies with more potent weapons. But any army that relies on the word of God is invincible.

So the next time you see the Torah being marched around think of it as the major weapon in the battle for goodness and justice. Salute the Torah, cheer the Torah and, above all, honor the Torah for it is the greatest safeguard and protection we have.

Lawrence Goldmark is the rabbi at Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada.

Where Religion Meets Bohemia

“What on earth is that?” asks Jordan, a 27-year-old actor in Los Feliz.

He is staring at a dancing rabbi on a flatbed truck that is inching its way down Vermont Avenue, one of the main boulevards in Los Feliz.

Vermont has a certain bohemian air about it. Like Jordan, many of the people on the street — and there are a good number of them lounging around in the outdoor cafes — are artists of some kind, and quite a few look like they are transplants from Haight Ashbury. Most are wearing as little clothing as possible in the 90 degree heat, so the vision of a man in full rabbinical regalia (black hat, frock coat, long pants and beard), dancing to loud Jewish music blaring from loudspeakers on a truck, is curious, to say the least. Especially since the rabbi is being followed by a parade of about 200 people, who are singing along to the music and clapping their hands. A few of the them are holding a velvet chuppah, and one is bobbing along with a Sefer Torah in his hand.

The parade is to honor a new Sefer Torah that was donated to Chabad of Greater Los Feliz, and this scene — of the Russian shtetl coming to one of the hippest neighborhoods in Los Angeles — is an incongruous one, but to the Jewish community in Los Feliz, it is not uncommon. “Every Shabbos, we make it look like central La Brea and Fairfax,” says Rabbi Leibel Korf, 30, (the dancing rabbi) who came to Los Feliz four years ago to open up a Chabad house under the auspices of Rabbi Shlomo Cunin. “People sitting in the cafes who see us are amazed that this is Los Feliz.”

Chabad of Greater Los Feliz, located on 1727 N. Vermont Ave, ‘107, caters to what Korf calls a “unique” community. Like the rest of the population of Los Feliz, the Jews who are attracted to the neighborhood tend to be involved in artistic endeavors. “A lot of them are in the movie business,” Korf says of the 40 members who attend weekly, and the hundreds who come for holiday events and parties.

Los Feliz gained its artistic cachet years ago, when cheap rents attracted swarms of starving creative types who could not afford to live anywhere else. They gave the neighborhood its cool quotient. Now, as the neighborhood is becoming known as an up-and-coming, trendy place to live, the rents are rising, pushing out the types of people who gave the neighborhood its flair in the first place.

“Los Feliz has changed a lot since I moved here five years ago,” says Seth Menachem, 27, an actor who is a member of Chabad of Greater Los Feliz. “It’s now heavily gentrified, and the rents have skyrocketed. But still, it is not your typical doctor-and-lawyer community. People are more laid-back here, and you can feel the difference.”

Menachem, who was raised Reform, was attracted to Chabad of Greater Los Feliz because of its spirituality. However, he finds that Chabad house is as good a place for networking as it is for praying. “I’m working with two people who I met through Chabad on a TV show,” he says.

For Brooklyn-born Korf and his wife, Dvonye, Los Feliz was the realization of a lifetime goal. “My entire life I would sit at the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s farbrengens [talks] and he would tell us that we had to share Yiddishkayt with others,” he says. “I dreamed that I would come to a neighborhood that was completely different to being in a frum [religious] environment, and I would be able to share with the people there the great treasure that we have — the Torah.”

The new Sefer Torah, donated on June 23, was donated by Lisa Brahms, who passed away last July. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Brahms had started searching for spirituality and started studying with Korf.

“The weaker she was getting the more she was adopting spirituality, and she felt that her dying was a mission,” Korf says. “She totally transcended to a deeper appreciation of life, and so she wanted to share this with other people, which is why she commissioned a scribe to start writing the Sefer Torah.”

Chabad of Los Feliz will host “Jews in the Lotus,” Today’s Quest for
Spirituality And the Lure of the East, on Wednedsay, July 24, at 7:30
p.m. Featuring Rabbi Kravitz, founder of Jews for Judaism.