Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Thoughts About Peace Talks Between Jew and Gentile.. And Between Jews

Top leaders of Jewish organisations want to change the focus of interfaith outreach from Catholic Jewish dialogue to Muslim Jewish dialogue. Vos Iz Neias reports as follows.

Washington - A top Jewish umbrella organization in the United States is launching a campaign to initiate dialogue and cooperative efforts with the Muslim community.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs announced the initiative as part of a bid to shift the focus from the community's recent rapprochement with Pope Benedict XVI. While restoring good ties with the Catholic Church is seen as important, especially following the fallout over the bishop who was reinstated despite his past statements denying the Holocaust.

There is a growing sense among activists and rabbis in the Jewish community that reaching out to American Muslims is a more urgent need than relations with Catholics.

The JCPA says it seeks to foster greater Jewish-Muslim cooperation in promoting civil rights, defending civil liberties, and combating terrorism. The JCPA also says it seeks to join forces with Muslims to combat anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and anti-Islamic prejudice.

The JCPA must be living in a different world than I am. New York is a salad bowl of different religious and ethnic groups. The world of work and business is the best way to foster dialogue, not about faith and comparative religion but about simply coexisting. The majority of people want safe streets and good opportunities for their families. Most immigrants want to leave conflict back home.

For those who are curious about the attire and customs of their neighbours, literature and classes should be made available. Some people are more curious than others. Accomodation should be made for that.

There is a legal definition of tolerance. It means at least being civil to those with whom one may disagree and who one dislikes. Anyone who does not respond to pragmatic business interests or curiosity should at least fear crossing the line into criminal behavior. Intelligence and law enforcement will always have a place in maintaining peace in America or anyplace else. The Bush administration showed a keen awareness of this. Unfortunately, there seems to be a drift from common sense under the Obama administration, which is attempting to have dialogue with a long list of enemies while neglecting friends.

In Israel, a case has been making the news that points to a need for peace talks between Jews. Vos Iz Neias reports as follows.

New York - On Sunday, Elhanan Buzaglo was sentenced to four years imprisonment for the vicious beating of a woman, nine months ago in Jerusalem's Ma'alot Dafna neighborhood. Buzaglo, a member of a charedi mishmar hazniyut, a self-appointed chastity squad, pled guilty as part of a plea bargain struck with the State Prosecutor's Office.

Buzaglo, who broke into the 31-year-old divorcé’s apartment along with four other men, was convicted of receiving $2,000 from the mishmar hazniyut for his role in the attack, which was intended to intimidate her into leaving the predominantly charedi neighborhood. Judge Noam Solberg wrote in his decision that "the punishment must reflect the abhorrence of his acts … and deter him and others like him."

Even though the Jerusalem District Court described the assailants as an "armed militia," Buzaglo, 29, was the only defendant to be convicted in this barbaric attack. According to newspaper reports last October, a series of flaws in the investigation, including a problem with the recording device, enabled Buzaglo's dispatchers – the modesty patrol members – to evade indictments.

The sentence meted out to Buzaglo is entirely appropriate. The violence being reported in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and other places in Israel against those deemed immodest masks a lot of problems. Many people who do do not fit into rigid molds of behavior and learning are leaving Judaism entirely. In some happy cases, they return to other orthodox groups that are more tolerant of differences. Communal laws and ordinances must ultimately be an expression of collective desire and direction. In order to change behavior, the heart must ultimately be transformed. Imitating the hatred of women prevalent among Israel's Arab neighbours will not bring peace to Jewish communities. The murderous intent of Jew haters world wide should remind us that we are in the same boat.

The peace talks that Jewish leaders are calling for between Jews, Christians and Muslims are entirely appropriate between Jews. The problems of a troubled economy, crime and drugs are a common concern to Jews and gentile alike. We would do far better to join forces in working on these problems than to focus on intractable differences of religious philosophy.

Whether in Israel or America, there is a place for dialogue and a place for the law. In search of peace, we must use both

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