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October 28, 2011 2:22 pm

The Jewish Solution Problem

avatar by Dovid Efune

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Banner for the movie 'Unmasked' by produced and direcred by Gloria Greenfield.

Have you ever wondered what goes through a black man’s mind when he reads about slavery, apartheid and oppression? How Muslim women in the United States react when they see images of their counterparts in Saudi Arabia or Iran being lashed, mutilated or stoned? What does a young free Jew feel when watching a film about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism or a documentary about the Third Reich or Islamist fascism?

Of course responses are as varied as viewers, but it must be acknowledged that witnessing graphic depictions of one’s own people suffering is just that one step closer to home and often the impact is greater.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to explore this in a collective setting when I attended the American premier of Unmasked, a new movie on Judeophobia (anti-Semitism) directed and produced by Gloria Greenfield. Following the viewing, Bret Stephens, Deputy Opinion Page Editor of the Wall Street Journal fielded questions from the audience, enabling them to share their reactions.

The documentary itself, on historic and modern day anti-Semitism featured commentary from 48 experts, spanning the full gamut of activists in this field. Comprehensive and thoughtful, it could certainly have some impact as compulsory high school viewing material. However to the many initiated and educated Jews in the audience, it is unlikely that anything new was brought to light.

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The viewers were left wanting, as is often the case at Jewish organizational or communal gatherings. The impressively articulated predicament remained bereft of a solution that bears equal weight, as was acknowledged by Gloria and expressed in no uncertain terms by a young lady who was first to commandeer the mike when the floor was opened. Almost the entire question and answer session that followed represented a strong thirst, almost a plea for resolution.

It seems to be a growing trend, especially among Jewish youth, to demand answers to Jewish problems from a Jewish leadership that has often been content to explore in great detail the various challenges that Jews and Israel face, and that is where it ends.

Perhaps for the purposes of raising funds it pays to focus on concerns and dangers, however Jewish venture philanthropists that are seeking to influence real change, should not tolerate solicitations that dedicate any more than thirty percent of their pitch to the challenges that they are seeking to address as opposed to proposed plans of action.

If one finds oneself at a meeting of a board or committee of a Jewish organization, where the problem/solution ratio is off balance, one is most likely wasting ones time. Consider the likely ramifications if a board meeting of your company or place of work presented the same equilibrium – somebody would need to be fired.

Interestingly however, it is possible that this apparent lack of focus in itself is a symptom of a greater Jewish malady. Curing it could collaterally bring with it a radical change of direction that would work towards resolution on any number of anti-Semitism centric challenges, and similar.

The remedy may come precisely with this shift from the default Jewish defensive and reactionary position straight into first gear, re-evaluating how we think about addressing challenges, by focusing on ideas and solutions as opposed to problems.

In tackling anti-Semitism, the same exact principle applies, as Stephens conveyed at the screening. Considering what we are up against, what is necessary is this fundamental change of direction and renewed approach to confronting Jewish enemies. We need to be proactive, aggressive and constantly on the attack, pushing forward the Jewish narrative and Jewish positions, holding haters and their enablers accountable in an ongoing, relentless and unyielding fashion.

It was a point that could be highlighted by contrasting voices portrayed in the production. While Alan Dershowitz pontificated on the extent to which it is acceptable to criticize Israel, Arab mobs bellowed accusatory slogans simply labeling Jews as child killers.

The Jewish mindset that defines itself through challenges and victimhood is the same mindset that reacts to the incessant jackhammer of vile anti-Semitic propaganda by considering the extent to which it may or may not be justified. Is it not time that we greet fire with fire? It may be our only path to stand a fighting chance.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

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  • Hinda Langer

    We understand that the Algemeiner is a “news” paper. However, in terms of solutions it might be appropriate to have a regular feature that deals with the “news” vis a vis a Torah perspective. As Lord Rabbi Sacks pointed out, the hostage situation is one that is discussed extensively in Jewish law and literature. Perhaps applying the solution oriented answers from authentic Torah leaders might create an informed Jewish public. Simple questions:
    When is abortion permissible according to Jewish law? When and how much interest can be charged from the Torah perspective? How much tzedaka is are individuals obligated to give according to Torah? How is it figured out? If the editors feel that this is the purview of only journals of “Judaism” written for rabbis – I think that we, the general Jewish population, need this information more than the rabbis.

    Solutions to problems of prison populations? Look at the chaplaincy programs of Aleph Institute.

    Solutions to problems of high divorce rates? Can this marriage be saved with He says, she says and the rabbinic counselor says.

    Solutions to problems of challenges to the eco systems? What are agricultural laws of shmitta, etc. etc.

    Take micro community solutions and give them some “air time.” Bikkur Cholim, etc. etc. People helping people features, etc. Feature reporting that can focus on the organizations that are solution oriented for society’s problems.

    If one column doesn’t suffice on a problem, then there’s always next week.

    Yes, I am tired of having the public seeing Jewish organizations in the news only when Mel Gibson is tagged as an anti-Semite.

    (A solution for the financial problem of paying extensively for feature investigative writing on ‘good news’ features is hiring interns, young people who are starting out in journalism and want experience…..just an aside to the editors)

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