Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Battle of Area Jewish Community

18. September 2004 • Ari Paul
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Tensions are rising again on the pages of the Ann Arbor News over the protests against the Israeli Government by the Jewish Witnesses for Peace.

Neal Elyakin and Jeff Levin write:

Who are these extremists anyway? This is the same group whose members publicly called the Ann Arbor City Council the “Ku Klux Klan Council,” the president of the Jewish community a “filthy swine,” and other Jewish leaders “purveyors of slime (with) money and power.” Though they claim that they act out of concern for the Jewish community, they advertise their repugnant actions on Web sites like and Their leader, Henry Herskovitz, mourned the imprisonment of Sami al-Arian, a supporter of Islamic Jihad who called Jews “monkeys and pigs.” Even their name is misleading – many of the Jewish Witnesses for Peace are, in fact, not Jewish.

But Harry Clark retorts:

The Sabbath vigils conducted at Beth Israel Congregation by Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends have been criticized for treating religious worship as political activity. However, synagogues may also serve as Jewish national as well as religious institutions, because modern Israel is central to Jewish religious belief.

Jewish Theological Seminary President Ismar Schorsch writes in “The Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism,” “the centrality of modern Israel heads our list of core values… Conservative Jews … visit Israel (and) support financially every one of its worthy institutions. Israeli accomplishments on the battlefield and in the laboratory, in literature and politics, fill them with pride.”

The “Core Values” were echoed by Beth Israel Congregation Rabbi Robert Dobrusin in his sermon last Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish religious holiday. Referring to Jewish “foundational myths,” the rabbi stated that “the two most vital places of myth (are) the State of Israel and the synagogue,” and that “insuring the survival of the Jewish State is among (our) greatest responsibilities.”

  1. I think Jews and none-Jews who vigil at the synagogue and at the Hillers Market every weekend are the voice of conscience for many who see the genocide of Palestinians by the racist Israeli State but are too afraid to speak up. I am proud to say that Ann Arbor is home to many individuals and groups who have committed their efforts to see an end to the occupation of Palestine. During the last week alone there were two major community events, organized by Ann Arbor residents, focusing on the illegality and cruelty of Israeli occupation of Palestine. Dr Uri Davis, an Israeli anthropologist spoke at the University of Michigan and encouraged the university to divest from what he calls the apartheid Israel. Last night through the efforts of Ann Arbor Palestine Film Society “Peace Propaganda and the Promise land” screened at the Michigan Theater and drew many viewers. This movie critically examined American media coverage of the conflict in Palestine and compared US coverage to that in other Western countries suggesting that media’s biased reporting in the US is in fact the reason why most American are in the dark about the brutality and inhumanity with which Israeli occupation is enforced. Weekend vigillers of Ann Arbor say “NO” to the occupation of Palestine and they have the courage to stand up for it. We must applaud them Jews and none-Jews alike.
       —mozhgan Savabieasfahani    Sep. 20 '04 - 03:50PM    #
  2. No. We musn’t applaud them, Mozghan.

    It’s saddening and frightening that you and other vigilers take pride in labelling anything containing the word ‘Israel’ as racist. When the world-renowned Israeli Philmharmonic came in, the misnomered Jewish Witnesses for Peace picketed out front. This is just as undignified and alarming as the Iranian Judo-khan who refused to compete against an Israeli opponent in an OLYMPIC MATCH this past summer, and was applauded by his countrypeople and government for doing so.

    Worse, to this day, picketer Thom Saffold videotapes prayergoers at Beth Israel (note titular reference to the State of Israel), an Ann Arbor synagogue, on Saturday, despite the fact that many prayergoers at Beth Israel refrain from the use of electronics on their Sabbath, and subsequently, from being filmed. The picketers’ presence at synagogue on a Saturday morning makes the hearts of prayergoers sink, and puts a damper on their right to pray.

    Worst of all, the same picketers appeared at the doors to a dialogue OPEN TO THE ENTIRE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ANN ARBOR on June 6th of this year. I can’t imagine they didn’t get the invitation, because they were at the doors 15 minutes early. A more appropriate title for these wolves in peacemakers’ clothing would be Local Obstacles to Sincere Efforts Related to Solution-seeking (LOSERS). Ahh, much better.

    Thankfully the LOSERS’ presence hasn’t persuaded Beth Israel’s congregants to adopt such outrageously intolerant views regarding Israel. Nevermind what you think about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and nevermind that there are no physical altercations (although I’d be in my right mind to chuckle if a young, non-synagogue goer were to deliver to a swift kick in the nuts to one of the LOSERS): picketing in front of a synagogue is disgraceful. That this ‘tactic’ is actually deemed a ‘tactic,’ and thus subject to discussions regarding its morality, is abhorrent, and makes me fear for my religious freedom as an American Jew.

    Elyakin and Levin’s editorial raises a question that should resonate with anyone who might entertain the notion of silently accepting the LOSERS’ actions:

    “Should anti-affirmative action rallies be held Sunday mornings at the Second Baptist Church? Pro-choice vigils during mass at St. Francis? How about a pro-war get-together at the Friends Meeting House?”

    To all those reading this Blog thread: please break the pervading silence, and tell the ‘Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends’ to cease their picketing on the Sabbath.

    Bonus points to those who voice their discomfort with and to the UM student group SAFE, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, for co-sponsoring events or speakers (e.g. Uri Davis) with ‘Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends’ while they picket in front of local places of worship.
       —AS    Sep. 20 '04 - 10:19PM    #
  3. The ethnocentrism of the non-Jewish protestors and their defenders is profound. Let’s put the situation in a different perspective and see if it would yield the same results:

    Imagine a group of mostly non-Muslims goes (and some Muslims) and protests in front of a mosque against suicide bombings or whatnot during Friday midday prayers. The name of the group? Muslim Voices for Peace and Friends. Would their presence, protesting people because of their ethnic identity and what they perceive to be those people’s political ideologies during their time of worship, be considered offensive?

    If your answer is anything but yes, then I’d have to say you’re a sick puppy. If it is yes, then why the apparent double standard applied to Jews?

    Protesting outside places of worship because you think maybe people of that faith may be inclined to think one way is offensive, not courageous. To not involve themselves in dialogue at the appropriate opportunity also makes them cowards.

    They’re really not interested in dialogue, but rather demonization of people who may think differently than them. Apparently, this also includes people who MAY think differently than them.
       —Jared Goldberg    Sep. 21 '04 - 01:30PM    #
  4. Dear AS,

    My turbulent life in racist societies such as that of Israel and the United States has thought me one valuable thing: Never mind those who cannot even put their name to what they write.

       —mozhgan Savabieasfahani    Sep. 21 '04 - 03:30PM    #
  5. A sick puppy? You call courageous people who dare stand up to criminal silence of the majority sick puppies? Is this the best you can do Jared Goldberg?

    Imagine at the height of Nazi atrocities, against your own people the Jews, someone speaking out against slaughter of the Jews. Would you call them sick puppies too?

    Israeli military is devastating a population who never asked to be occupied. Judaism is identified with murder, destruction and torture in the eyes of millions of people in the Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere. And the best you can do is to call people who stand up against illegal madness of Israel sick puppies? I am speechless!!! To hide your head under the sand only blindfolds you. The rest of the world can see!
    Mozhgan Savabiesafahani
       —mozhgan Savabieasfahani    Sep. 21 '04 - 04:29PM    #
  6. mozhgan,

    Now you’ve done it. You’ve proven my point. You probably didn’t make it past the first reference to ‘Israel’ in my well-thought out entry that I spent a great deal of time on, trying to make it as concise as possible. Then, you threw in the word ‘racist’ somewhere in your brief, non-sequitor response to try and discredit me.

    Do me a favor:

    (1) Write an AUTObiography about ‘racist’ america and ‘racist’ israel, and get me to pity you before harassing me.

    (2) If I ever give my name,-and I won’t this time-don’t picket in front of my house.

    (3) Ask one of these Jewish picketers if they know what the word shmuck means. When they ask you why, tell them that an anonymous, non-picketing Jewish blogger called you one.
       —AS    Sep. 22 '04 - 01:50AM    #
  7. AS,

    Vulgarity and insults does not cut it! You and your writings are both out there for everyone to see and it ain’t a pretty site.
    Mozhgan Savabieasfahani
       —mozhgan Savabieasfahani    Sep. 22 '04 - 09:51AM    #
  8. Mozhgan:

    Let’s not skirt around the issue, buddy. That’s a Republican thing to do . . .

    A) DO NOT draw comparisons to the Holocaust. In addition to trivializing it, you’re working on false analogies.

    B) I never said don’t protest at all. Protest in front of the Israeli embassy if you want. I won’t argue with you. Go to Israel and protest in front of the Knesset, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s, etc. That’s completely legitimate.

    Why I think people are sick puppies is when they protest outside places of worship because the people inside MAY hold certain political views (and they may not).

    C) Judaism will be seen as vulgar to anyone who is a bigot. It doesn’t matter what we Jews do or don’t do.

    But to say it’s OUR fault people are bigots is absolutely ludicrous.

    And THAT’S anti-semitism.
       —Jared Goldberg    Sep. 22 '04 - 01:05PM    #
  9. AS (and I will stop writing after this note because anyone who does not have enough integrity to stand by his or her words is not worth talking to),

    Israeli occupation is ON in all places (religious or not) in Palestine at all times. “Worshippers” with even a miniscule amount of humanity ought to stop “worshipping” and start screaming at the top of their lungs at the devastating treatment of their fellow human beings at the hands of Nazi Israeli occupiers.

    Synagogue protesters have the right, the humanity, and the decency to protest the illegal Israeli occupation and they can do it any and everywhere they choose.

    Wake up and smell the coffee “buddy”!!! Israeli racist regime has bought so much hatred for the Jews everywhere that it will take years for the rest of us to gain back some respect for the Jews of the word.

    Also, I am not your buddy nor do I desire to be a friend to such arrogant, racist person such as yourself.

    Mozhgan Savabieasfhani
       —mozhgan Savabieasfahani    Sep. 23 '04 - 10:27AM    #
  10. I’m sorry, Your Courtship Mozhgan Savabieasfhani, if I offended you by calling you “buddy.” It’s a figure of speech.

    I diasagree heavily with your statement that the “Israeli occupation is ON in all places (religious or not) in Palestine at all times.” But, I’m not about to argue point by point about the fallaciousness of your statements. That was, and never will be, my focus.

    Sure, synagogue protestors have the RIGHT to protests. No one in their right mind will protest that. But, protesting in front of synagogues because they think that MAYBE the people inside praying have certain political views is downright offensive.

    To think these people are courageous is absurd. Courageous people don’t offend the innocent.

    “Israeli racist regime has bought so much hatred for the Jews everywhere that it will take years for the rest of us to gain back some respect for the Jews of the word.” Any bigot, such as yourself, will find any way to justify their hatred, their racism. But just because you throw in the words “Israeli racist regime” in there does not make it right. It just makes you look dumb.

    Also, I am deeply offended by you calling me arrogant and racist. Please back up your accusation that I am racist with some quotes attributed to me. If you can’t, I’m expecting a full apology (which I probably won’t get).
       —Jared Goldberg    Sep. 23 '04 - 04:44PM    #
  11. Just as every person alive during the Holocaust was responsible for the deaths and suffering, each of us alive today is responsible for the Occupation, the Wall, the missile attacks, the crop razing and tree uprooting, and the suicide bombing.

    We each have ancestors who were killed violently. We each have loved ones who are in harm’s way. Will we compete for sympathy or will we give it freely? Will we deny the humanity of the other or will we see it in spite of the anger?

    I am your brother. Please forgive me.
       —Steve Bean    Sep. 23 '04 - 06:18PM    #