Selected Shorts

One springtime ritual in many homes finds Mom bringing out the summer clothing bins and selecting the short pants that her kids will be wearing over the coming summer months. Here then, as the weather turns warm, are some Selected Shorts:

Hasidim Too, But What Are They?

JTA, May 15 – Conservative clergyman Lawrence Troster was the only Jew invited to attend the modestly-named International Conference on Environment, Peace and the Dialogue Among Civilizations and Cultures, held recently in Teheran under the joint sponsorship of the UN and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But Troster’s opportunity to regale the folks back home in Jersey about being the solitary Yiddel there was spoiled when he spotted “two Chasidim there, fresh from a meeting with the country’s president, Mohammad Khatami. He quickly realized that the two were members of the anti-Zionist Satmar sect. ‘They weren’t participating in the conference,’ Troster said, ‘but they were welcome because they were anti-Zionist. It was the last place I expected to see a Chasid, but you never know who you are going to run into at these things.’ ”

Presumably, Troster’s statement that the two “were welcome because they were anti-Zionist” was a conjecture from afar on his part, unless we improbably assume that, upon sighting his Jewish brethren, he ran over to warmly greet them or, perhaps, invite them to join him in a mezuman (threesome for Grace After Meals).

Actually, however, Iran is not at all the last place one should expect to see Satmar Chasidim, considering the extremely important and courageous work they have been doing for decades now through the Rav Tov organization, spiriting Jews (non-Satmars, that is) out of Iran and providing for all of their material and spiritual needs. So the dynamic Chasidic duo’s presence may have had nothing at all to do with their anti-Zionism.

Come to think of it, for all we know — and knowing the Satmars — they may have left Khatami’s office having just inked a multimillion-dollar deal to build the Teheran subway system, or open a nationwide chain of camera stores or whatever . . . again, nothing to do with the fact that “they were anti-Zionist.”

Moral of the story: People like Troster really should get out more. They’d be surprised at how often they’ll meet Chasidim in some of those “last places [he’d] expect to see” them.

Boca Raton — Is That In America?

In a letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post, responding to the same Elliot Jager article to which Shira Schmidt penned a rejoinder, Mr. H.L. of Boca Raton asserts that because American “haredim . . . actively discourage a secular/college education . . . the only haredi physicians are ba’alei teshuva; it is rare to meet a haredi physician from a haredi family.”

Maybe I move in unusual circles, but a quick mental inventory of friends, family and my broader social circle turns up a very large number of physicians who were born into observant families, and many of whom one could describe as “haredi” (although that term itself encompasses a much broader swath of Jewry that is commonly acknowledged; that’s for another day). Readers are invited to make their own lists to test the proposition. I suppose, however, that since haredim uniformly “discourage secular education,” someone who went through college and medical school to become a physician is, by definition, not “haredi.”

Recapitulating Their Non-capitulation

The JTA reports that WorldPride 2005, which was to have been a 10-day international festival and parade of alternative-lifestyle-niks (how’s that for euphemism!), has been postponed until next summer. Sharon Kleinbaum, a national chair of WorldPride and head of a temple in Manhattan whose members are proud bacon-and-lobster-eaters, er, I mean alternative-lifestyle-niks, says that despite a huge outcry from Jewish, Chrisitian and Muslim religious communities in Israel, the festival organizers “were in no way pressured to make the decision to postpone.” They simply didn’t want to “get in the way of the pullout” from Gaza scheduled for later this summer. (Interestingly, the Torah also makes a connection between “alternative lifestyles” and Jews being ejected from the Holy Land. Looks like those two go together . . .)

“We are not caving in to any kind of right-wing pressure. We are not capitulating,” Kleinbaum protested, uh, that is, stated. The reason for the tough stand against right-wing pressure? Let’s see if you can fill in the rhetorical blank: It’s because “Jerusalem belongs to ____________ .” If you answered “all Jews” (as in “the Kotel belongs to all of us, so we’ll do whatever we want there”) you’ve won!

Kleinbaum noted that at first festival organizers had considered starting it in mid-August but realized that would be just before Tisha B’Av. ” Out of respect for Jewish religious sensitivities — including my own — we did not want to start it then, ” Kleinbaum said. So let me see if I understand this clearly. In deference to Jewish religious sensitivities, they pushed off the intended pre-Tisha B’Av start date of a festival in which thousands of alternative-lifestyle-niks from around the world will prance through the streets of Yerushalayim Ihr HaKodesh and engage in a 10-day bachannal replete with a film festival and all manner of debauchery. You couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?

Well, just to demonstrate our goodwill, we’d like to pass along one rescheduling suggestion we’ve heard: The first of these WorldPride festivals was held a couple of years ago in Rome, the seat of Chrisitianity. So why not skip Jerusalem and hold the second festival this year, as scheduled, but in Mecca, seat of Islam? Then, any survivors of that event can recuperate and convene in Jerusalem two years hence.

And by the way, if you haven’t heard, Kleinbaum and friends cancelled the festival totally of their own volition; they did not, I repeat, not cave in to any outside pressure.

Division Thing

In another development, related to the previous one only in its level of intellectual consistency, the JTA reports that

The Reform and Conservative movements on Monday endorsed Zeev Bielski’s candidacy to head the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon picked Bielski, the mayor of Ra’anana, to succeed Sallai Meridor, but the international organization of Sharon’s ruling Likud Party on Sunday selected former Cabinet minister Natan Sharansky as its candidate. Sharansky, an outspoken opponent of the government’s Gaza withdrawal plan, is seen as a divisive figure, said Rabbi Andrew Davids, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.

Bielski, who is known for his good relations with Diaspora Jews, understands the concerns and needs of the Diaspora community, including the importance of increased religious pluralism in Israel, Davids said.

So, to review, Sharansky (you know, he’s the guy who sat in a Soviet prison for many years for wanting to live freely as a Jew in Israel) is a divisive figure, apparently because he opposes the Gaza disengagement which, after all, slightly more than half of Israelis support. Further evidence of his divisive tendencies and, thus, unfitness for high office, is his current great popularity with President Bush, who, we all know, is exceedingly divisive, having won only three million more votes than his opponent in the last election.

Zeev Bielski, by contrast, is a unifying figure since he’s supportive of the efforts of the large and burgeoning Israeli heterodox movements to achieve religious pluralism in Israel, where all live in simple peace and harmony.

OK, just checking to see that I got that right.

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