Friday, August 2, 2002

Shabbat-O-Gram for August 2-3, Av 25 5762

  Shabbat-O-Gram for August 2-3, Av 25 5762

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut


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We smile through our tears after another week of great sadness and unbearable loss.  At least two of our congregants have direct ties to those killed in the terror attack at Hebrew University, and all of us grieve for the victims. Closer to home, we also grieve with Barb Moskow, our education and youth director, on the passing of her mother Evelyn.  For information on the victims of this week’s terror attacks, go to .  Here is a personal account regarding one of the victims, Marla Bennett of San Diego, written by Sallie Kuh of Stamford, whom we thank for sharing these recollections:

Marla Bennett was the younger daughter of Linda and Michael Bennett of San Diego. She was the youngest of six grandchildren. Her maternal grandmother, Flo Ackerman aged 92, was anxiously awaiting Marla's return this weekend. Marla has one sister Lisa, 29, who lives in San Diego.  Her interest in Judaism started at an early age and she had been studying in Jerusalem for many years, and as you have read she had a final this morning and then was due to leave this evening. Her plan was to be home for about a month before returning to Israel. I believe she probably would have relocated there at some point.  Marla was a sweet, bubbly young woman with friends all over the U.S. and Israel.  The family knew when she didn't call them immediately after the bombing that something was terribly wrong and for many hours waited to hear something. The entire family and Jewish community in San Diego will miss her.



JUST THE FACTS: Services and Such (N.B. 7 PM Fri. night, OUTDOORS)

Friday Night: Candles: 7:50 PM

Kabbalat Shabbat service (OUTDOORS, WEATHER PERMITTING)7:00 PM


Shabbat Morning: 

Services at 9:30 AM, in the sanctuary, children’s services at 10:30

Mazal Tov to Stella and Isaac Cohen, on the naming of their daughter, Shira Elysse.

This week we bless the upcoming month of Elul, which begins on Thursday and Friday


Read the Masorti commentary at JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.: CLAL's Torah commentary archive:

Morning Minyan: Daily at 7:30, Sundays at 9:00



Mazal Tov to Harry and Polly Geller on the birth of their new granddaughter Mei Cecelia, daughter of Adam and Eiko Geller.





Spiritual Journey on the Web: Bad Choices

Re’eh begins with the classic verse which summarizes the entire theology of Deuteronomy, “Behold, this day I set before you blessing and curse:  Blessing, if you obey the commandments of Adonai your God…and curse, if you do not…”  Basically, it tells us that we have moral choices to make and that the consequences for these choices will be ours alone to bear.  If you are interested in background on the theology of Deuteronomy, click on

When you get around the scholarly gibberish, we find that the book of Deuteronomy depends on a moral absolutism that seems awkward, if not downright opposed to a rabbinic Judaism that thrives in shades of gray.  Judaism is primarily a religion of struggle and questioning, where the choices are rarely between pure good and pure evil, but between “bad” and “worse.”  Click on to hear a clip of what the Jewish musical group Safam thinks about “Bad Choices” made in the Bible.  But the issue here is not bad choices so much as hard choices.  Nothing is completely bad or good (except for Dr. Evil – although you can find that there might even be some good in Evil himself, at least in his grudge match against Dr. Laura at

That’s why it is interesting that our verse says “blessing and curse,” rather than “or.”  The text itself seems to be implying that there are shades of gray, that nothing is pure blessing or pure curse, that all choices involve a little of both.  It is noteworthy that the two mountains mentioned in the passage, where the ritual of choice was enacted, are facing each other.   We can’t choose one without facing the implications of the choice we didn’t make. (Read about the two fabled mountains of Gereizim and Eybal at,  (including information on their connection to the Samaritans) and,

Israel faces tough choices these days, the toughest.  Life and death choices don’t get any more difficult than this.  How does a nation protect itself from terrorists without losing its “soul.”  How does it maintain the moral “high ground” (and it’s no coincidence that the blessings of Re’eh are pronounced from the top of a mountain – the highest ground imaginable).  There are a number of articles below on this subject, related to the assassination of the Hamas leader and other difficult decisions made by Israel lately. 

In this week’s Jerusalem Report (, Editor David Horovitz writes of the vacuum at the center of Israeli political life.  There appears to be no one willing to stand in that empty space between the eternally quixotic Peres on the left and a right wing all-too willing to sacrifice fundamental democratic values.  A security conscious state needs to find that middle, even during wartime.  He states, “Arafat will not defeat Israel militarily. He will prevail, though, if, as it defends itself against him, Israel strays from pragmatism and democracy, and if it loses track of the moral values embedded in the Jewish faith, the source of our survival. We look to our leadership to speak out and act on the basis of a moral and responsible assessment of the common good. And, too often these days, we look in vain.”  

And so, we choose the blessing and the curse – the curse of knowing that no decision we make during wartime will be morally pure, and the blessing of having the power to make the decision in the first place.  It is a power we did not have in the ‘40s – and a responsibility we ought not take lightly.



On Wed. Aug. 21 at 8:00 PM at Agudath Sholom, come hear Dr. Reuven Hazan, advisor to the Israeli speaker of the Knesset and consultant to Israel’s political parties, and outstanding political scientist, commentator and consultant.  The Israel Task Force of the UJF is bringing him to Stamford – Beth El is a co-sponsor of this important lecture.  Dr. Hazan spoke to our community-wide mission in Israel last November and his words were stirring.  This lecture is not to be missed!!!





More on the Hebrew University terror attack:


Bomb Triggered by Cellular Phone - Ze'ev Schiff
The entire incident reveals that the story of how Hamas, Tanzim, and Palestinian Authority officials were about to declare a unilateral cease-fire is nothing but a fairy tale. (Ha'aretz)


Story of the Rescue (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians Celebrate
In Gaza City, thousands of Palestinian men, women, and children celebrated by clapping, singing, and distributing sweets. (Reuters)

To Attack a University
"This is beyond the pale, to attack a university, and it shows what the war is about. It's not about the settlements. It's not about occupation. It's about the very existence of a Jewish population in this country," said Hebrew University political science professor Shlomo Avineri. (New York Times)




The civilized world is shocked at the latest Palestinian bombing, this time defiling the sanctity of an academic campus -- one in which Jewish, Arab and foreign students mixed freely.  The media has distorted the events of Wednesday's Hebrew University bombing in 4 significant ways. HonestReporting encourages members to monitor your local media and call their attention to the following points.


=== DISTORTION #1 ===


The media reported the attack as a response to Israel's killing of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh in Gaza.


Knight-Ridder correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson leads off by writing: "Palestinians seeking revenge for a recent Israeli airstrike on the Gaza

Strip detonated a bomb Wednesday in a crowded cafeteria at Hebrew University..."


It is spurious to categorize this attack as a response, when Hamas was already planning attacks anyway. According to Israeli Defense Minister

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Shehadeh was planning six simultaneous terror attacks in six different Israeli cities, including mega-attacks intended

to kill hundreds of Israelis. The LA Times reports that Israel's top internal security official believed that at least 60 terror attacks were

already being planned.


Some media even parroted the propagandist claim that Hamas was on the brink of a cease-fire. This argument is preposterous, considering that

Hamas has waged a ceaseless campaign of terror against Israeli civilians, claiming credit for at least 28 major bombing attacks against Israeli

civilians since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.



=== DISTORTION #2 ===


The media presents the Hebrew U attack as an appropriate retaliation, a tit-for-tat for the deaths of civilians in Shehadeh's apartment building.

However, the media fails to note one crucial difference: Israel was targeting a terrorist mastermind, with the civilians’ deaths regrettable collateral damage. By contrast, in the Hebrew U attack, Palestinians were intentionally targeting civilians.


This key point is omitted in a Reuters report, which fails to mention of why Israel attacked "a crowded area of Gaza City," implying that Israel is

no better than Palestinian bombers: "Palestinian militants have vowed to avenge an Israeli missile strike on a crowded area of Gaza City last week that sparked strong international condemnation..."


We ask: Would the media consider it an appropriate retaliation for Israel to now go massacre Palestinian university students? Of course not. As the

UK Independent put it: "Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Hamas' spiritual leader, said: 'When Israel bombs a civilian building full of women and children, and kills 15 people, this is the response they should expect.' It was a response that quickly eroded the international sympathy for the Palestinians prompted by the Gaza air strike. 'Why is somebody targeting students sitting down to their lunch?'..."


=== DISTORTION #3 ===


The media failed to report the mass celebrations in Gaza following the Hebrew U attack. An estimated 10,000 Palestinian men, women and children celebrated in the streets with clapping, singing and distributing sweets -- while carrying pictures of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and calling for more suicide bombings.  This is in sharp contrast to the Israeli soul-searching and regret following the deaths of civilians in the Shehadeh strike.


Amazingly, mention of the Gaza rally and celebrations was totally omitted by many major news agencies, including:

-         The New York Times

-         The Washington Post

-         BBC

-         Associated Press notes the rally, but doesn't mention any celebrations.


This mysterious omission calls to mind September 11, when Palestinians in Beirut, Nablus and Jerusalem exploded in street celebrations -- rejoicing,

dancing and handing out candies. Then, to prevent the world from seeing these incriminating images, armed Palestinians (some in PA uniform) detained foreign journalists and confiscated videotape, film and other camera equipment – while festivities continued in the streets. Journalists were threatened with

their life if the footage was broadcast. The scene was repeated three days later, when 1,500 Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza by waving posters of

Osama bin Laden.  Were this week's Gaza celebrations subject to similar forms of intimidation? Or perhaps journalists are practicing a form of self-censorship, knowing the consequence of portraying Palestinians in an unfavorable light.



=== DISTORTION #4 ===


The media subtly implies some justification for the attack by suggesting that Hebrew University is located on disputed land.

For example, the Washington Post map places the university clearly in the West Bank:


Reuters reports that "The bomb exploded in the cafeteria in the Frank Sinatra International Students Center, on the university's Mount Scopus campus near Arab East Jerusalem."


In truth, Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus was inaugurated in 1925, and was located on Jewish land long before the establishment of the State

of Israel. It flourished until Israel's 1948 War of Independence, when Jordanians seized the surrounding land, even as Israel continued to hold the Mt. Scopus site as an enclave. After the surrounding neighborhoods were restored to Israeli control in 1967, Mt. Scopus again flourished as Hebrew University's main campus.



Other Fallout from the Shehadeh Assassination


Last week, Israel struck a major blow in the war against terror with the killing of Salah Shehadeh in Gaza, operative head of the U.S.-certified terrorist group, Hamas. (See Shehadeh's terror-resume at, and an interview with him at: 


The Jerusalem Post has a terrific, right-to-the-point editorial on the subject at


From The New Republic: “Targets,” by Martin Peretz, at


Writing in the NY Post ("Hamas Kills Its Own" - July 24 -, John

Podhoretz declares that responsibility for the civilian casualties lies with the dead terrorist himself.


Other noteworthy articles:


U.S. Values Won't Sell in the Arab World - Zev Chafets
The Council on Foreign Relations proposes that the U.S. allocate vast sums to sell American values to the Arab world. If there are masses of Arabs who long for democratic government, they are masters of secrecy. When demonstrators in the Arab world take to the streets, it is usually to demand greater religious repression or revenge against a neighbor. Women in most Arab societies are property. The notion that there's a market for freedom, secular democracy, and modernity in the Arab world is delusional. (New York Daily News)


Rossi: Suicide Bombers Stir Debate Among American Jews (article based on a vexing moral question as discussed in the journal Sh’ma): 

"If a young Palestinian chooses to commit an act of terrorism with the blessing of his or her family, the consequences will be dire -- the bomber's parents, brothers and sisters will be executed soon after the attack takes place. That is the policy that noted Washington lawyer Nathan Lewin suggested in last month's issue of the respected Jewish journal "Sh'ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility." Since then, a firestorm has erupted over Lewin's article, and the response by Brandeis University's Rabbi Arthur Green, in the form of scores of letters to the journal, plus a heated exchange in The Forward newspaper. The debate points to the increasingly volatile level of discourse and ethical discussion in the Jewish community...."

Ross: Ferment among Palestinians Could Provide Hope
Dennis Ross, the Clinton administration's former point man for Middle East peace negotiations, reports that "I have never seen such uncharacteristic ferment on the Palestinian side. Everything is open to debate, including the use of violence, and there is much criticism of Arafat." Yet, "There is no mechanism for translating this ferment into policy. The majority of Palestinians realize that the intifada, which is now a war, has been a complete disaster, but they cannot exert their will" to implement basic changes, Ross told the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. (Jerusalem Post)

A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing
London's Guardian reports on a study by the Cambridge, Mass.-based National Bureau of Economic Research that puts to a test the canard that poverty motivates terrorists. Examining "the jobs, educational level and family circumstances" of Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli terrorists, authors Alan Kreuger and Jitka Maleckova find that "any connection between poverty, education and terrorism is indirect and probably quite weak." They do, however, find a correlation between education and terror:

Compared with the Lebanese population as a whole, Hizbullah members were less likely to come from poor families and were significantly more likely to have completed secondary education.

A similar pattern holds for Palestinian suicide bombers. Though the data are less extensive, the authors found a positive link between taking part in "terrorism" and educational attainment.

Israeli citizens engaged in bombing and assassination attempts in the occupied territories in recent years have also tended to be drawn from better-off backgrounds, and have often been highly educated.

At least in the case of the Arabs, there may be a simple explanation for this: the prevalence of anti-Semitic propaganda in their schools. The study is available here, for a $5 fee.

Palestine 101 - Sylvana Foa
Who really owns the land encompassing what is now Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority? The Canaanites established the Land of Canaan around 2000 B.C., but there are no Canaanites left. Abraham, the Father of the Jews and a figure revered by Islam, led a band of Hebrews from Mesopotamia and began the conquest of Canaan in 1741 B.C. (Village Voice) (For me, the subject was especially interesting, given the source)


I’ve received this letter from about a dozen people over the past week.  I have no way of substantiating the claims, but it rings authentically and after some consideration I’ve decided to reprint it here.  The subject is self-explanatory.  If someone could update us on this, it would be helpful:
President Richard Judd
Central Connecticut State University

Dear President Judd,

I am writing to ask you to cancel the "Course for Teachers to Address Middle Eastern Topics" scheduled by Central Connecticut State University on July 29 to Aug. 2.  The chairman of the course is geographer Richard Benfield and there are four instructors, all of them extremist supporters of radical Palestinian politics.
Professor Norton Mezvinsky is a widely published anti-Semite and opponent of the existence of Israel. Here is an excerpt from his book Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel in which he compares not Zionism but Judaism itself with Nazism:

"(Jewish) hatred of non-Jews is not new but, ... derived from a continuous Jewish cabbalistic tradition. Those Jewish scholars who have attempted to hide this fact from non-Jews and even from many Jews have not only done a disservice to scholarship; they have aided the growth of this Jewish analogue to German Nazism"

Mezvinsky is also co-author of Anti-Zionism: Political Reflections 1988

Ghassan El-Eid holds an appointment at Central Connecticut State although he has published very little.  He is a member of the Middle Eastern Studies Association.  The recent careful, well-documented, and highly regarded study of this association of professors of Middle Eastern studies by Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand, (2001) describes a group of professors who hold appointments at American universities only because the standards of scholarship in Middle Eastern Studies are far below what would be minimal expectations in more rigorous fields, such as history.  Moreover, the members of the MESA, of whom Ghassan El-Eid is a representative example, are not objective scholars, but apologists for Palestinian political views.

Fatma Antar is an economist who has published very little but has appeared on public panels to condemn Israeli policies.

Ali Antar is a physicist.  His qualification to appear on this panel appears to be that he is active in his local mosque.

Four such panelists could creditably appear at a political rally in support of the PLO. To pretend that they have either the credentials or the scholarly objectivity to instruct Connecticut teachers in the intricacies of Middle East politics is a travesty.


Support Israeli vendors and see what a neighboring community is doing for Israel at  It’s a veery impressive, collective endeavor, one that we should try to emulate.



From the New Israel Fund:



The Knesset voted down the Freedom of Choice in Marriage bill last week, but support for the measure is increasing among the Israeli public and legislators.

The bill, which was written by the Forum for Freedom of Choice in Marriage, a SHATIL-advised coalition, would have provided for civil marriage and recognition of marriages performed by Reform and Masorti (Conservative) rabbis. Months of lobbying by the Forum produced results when a number of Knesset members who had not signed the bill unexpectedly voted in favor of it and the vote generated wide media coverage.

The Forum must wait six months before introducing a bill again. In the meantime, it will continue to build support through the media and public education activities.

The Forum for Freedom of Choice in Marriage is a joint project of SHATIL and NIF grantee Hemdat: Council for Freedom of Science, Religion and Culture in Israel.  Learn more about the campaign.


Articles and Web sites on Elul – the month of spiritual preparation for the New Year… -- Rabbi Isaac Klein’s (Conservative) Guide to Jewish Practice – on Elul -- from the Orthodox Union -- a Kabbalistic approach -- material (excellent) from last year’s STAR project on Elul, in which our synagogue participated




  Quotes of the Week: 


“My whole opinion is if they [the Palestinians] think they are going to scare people or in any way annihilate the Zionist zeal they are completely wrong.”—Hebrew University student Shannon Kloppe, 19, from Dallas, Texas, who said she had come to study in Israel on a one-year program, with the goal of possibly making aliyah. Shannon now says she “definitely wants to” (Jer. Post, July 31)


My old home in Jerusalem was bombed yesterday by a Palestinian terrorist. During 1991 and 1992, I lived in an apartment…directly above a tiny but popular store on downtown Hanevi’im Street known as the Yemenite Falafel Center. Yesterday, seven people were wounded there when a 17-year-old Palestinian detonated explosives he was carrying in a bag…My immediate reaction: ‘It could have been me.’ A silly response, of course. After all, I’m separated from my former home by 10 years and nearly 6,000 miles. But if that’s the way I felt about someplace I haven’t lived in a decade, imagine how those who live in Jerusalem now must have reacted…Even the most hardened Israeli, those who take pains not to let Palestinian terrorism take control of their daily lives, probably can’t get through the day without wondering, at some point, ‘Will I make it home alive?’”—Columnist Eric Fettmann (New York Post, July 31)




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